National Pollinator Week 2013

colony-collapse-disorderNational Pollinator Week has helped bring much-needed attention to the problems associated with the use of insecticides, habitat destruction and other factors that lead to diminishing populations of pollinating insects.

Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees.  They are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of every bite of food we eat and the global value of crops pollinated by bees is estimated to be nearly $217 billion.  These invaluable creatures are facing troubling declines in the U.S. Some species have seen a 90% decline in their populations over the last decade.  Pollinator Week efforts are working to reverse and prevent declines.

Examples of crops that are pollinated include apples, squash, and almonds. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife.  Some of the seeds that are not eaten will eventually produce new plants, helping to maintain the plant population.

In the United States pollination by honey bees directly or indirectly (e.g., pollination required to produce seeds for the crop) contributed to over $19 billion of crops in 2010. Pollination by other insect pollinators contributed to nearly $10 billion of crops in 2010.

Pollination results when the pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma) and fertilizes it, resulting in the production of fruits and seeds.  Some flowers rely on the wind to move pollen, while other rely on animals to move pollen.

Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators.

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