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Pollinator Decline: Understanding Threats and Solutions by Teri Silver

Thursday, April 18, 2024 10:56 AM | EMILY LEVAN (Administrator)

The following article is sponsored by the Pest Gnome blog.

Pollinator Decline: Understanding Threats and Solutions

By Teri Silver

The birds and the bees are more than just a catchphrase about the “facts of life.” These important critters bring life to the world through the important transfer work of pollination. But as the world gets older, the number of pollinators is declining. Understanding the reasons why pollinators are disappearing is the key to figuring out a solution that will keep our world green.   

What is Pollination?

Pollination is what happens when birds, bees, and other species transfer pollen grains from one flower to another — specifically, from the male anther to the female stigma. This is to produce offspring for future generations.

Pollen travels from one flower to another in different ways. Depending on the environment, water and wind carry grains from here to there. Other pollinators include animals and insects such as butterflies, bats, and moths. The next time you see a few spring wildflowers, thank a pollinator!

Four-legged animals like deer transfer pollen too — albeit unintentionally. Animals eating at or near flowering plants may transfer loose pollen grains from flower to flower.   

Plants can be cross-pollinating (needing a pollinator to transfer the grains) or self-pollinating.

Threat to Pollinators

Pollinator populations are under attack. They are threatened by disappearing habitats, diseases, pests and pesticides, pollution, pathogens, changes in land use, and climate change. Honeybees and other flying insect pollinators are at the biggest risk.

Arguably the most notable pollinators, honeybees, are at the highest risk of loss. For example, bee colony losses between April 2022 and April 2023 are down over 48% from a previous count (2015-2016).

Breeding and Nesting

Habitats are shrinking. With native vegetation being replaced by manicured lawns, roadways, and non-native gardens, pollinators are losing their food and nesting sites. Because fewer meadows and prairies dot the horizon, birds, bats, bees, moths, and butterflies have a harder time finding a place to rest and nest.  

Water birds and migratory pollinators are also being affected, especially if suitable habitats along their migration routes are few and far between. Smaller, weaker birds won’t make it to their final destination.   

Why Does it Matter?

Americans like to eat, and of course, so does the rest of the world. In the United States, about a third of food consumption comes from farmers’ crops like fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says better nutrition for pollinators would come from planting nutrient-rich pollen-producing vegetation.

Pollinator Habitat Solutions

Pollinators are on the decline, but hope is not lost!  We can all do our part to encourage birds, bees, and butterflies to transfer pollen grains from one flowering plant to another. Here are a few easy landscaping ideas you can adopt to help the pollinator population.

Skip the weeding. Clover, dandelions, and those little white grass flowers are full of pollen for the bees to have a feast. Wildflowers may look like weeds, but they’re full of nectar. If you can’t bear to watch your whole lawn become full of weedy clover and crabgrass, consider turning a small patch of the yard into a pollinator oasis. Avoid chemical pesticides whenever possible.

Plant Flowers. Choose native varieties of colorful blooms, loaded with nectar and pollen. If you don’t have room for a large flower garden, place a few planters around the backyard. Rain gardens are a draw for moths, birds, butterflies, and bees.

Water Sources. Flying pollinators get thirsty during their trips from flower to flower, especially on hot days. Place pans of water near plants and flowers — pie tins are useful because they have edges for landing. Bird baths, fountains, and feeders are a draw, too. Hummingbirds love those special feeders, complete with sweet sugary water!

The declining number of pollinators is a concern — and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But the good news is that everyone can help to preserve and increase the number of habitats. Small, yet meaningful changes in caring for our environment, such as using integrated pest management instead of jumping straight to pesticides, will keep it thriving … and so will we.


Teri Silver is a journalist and outdoor enthusiast. She and her husband live on 5 acres with a vast lawn, three gardens, a farm, a pond, many trees, and a lot of yard work! The best parts of the year are summer and fall when home-grown veggies are on the dinner table.

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