Pollinators – such as bees, butterflies and bats – are responsible for the continued existence of more than 70 per cent of the world’s flowering plant population.
From the production of hybrid canola seed in southern Alberta to the pollination of blueberries in the Maritimes and British Columbia, honeybees are the primary managed pollinator for Canada’s agr icul tural food production. The pollination efforts of honeybees are estimated to contribute in excess of $2.2 billion to Canada’s agricultural economy each year.
Unfortunately habitat destruction and alteration, pesticide use, and pathogen spill – are contributing to a decrease in the abundance and diversity of wild and managed pollinators. In 2009, the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists reported three consecutive years of wintering losses for honeybees hovering at 30 per cent, twice the normal rate.
In addition to honeybees, there are more than 700 native species of bees that exist in Canada that also have a unique role in the maintenance of the country’s biodiversity. They are essential to the reproductive cycles of most flowering plants and thus to the ecosystem itself, by supporting plant populations that other animals and birds rely on for food and shelter. If the proper environments don’t exist for these bees, they cannot survive to continue pollinating the plants they are uniquely responsible for.
In one sense, bees are very much the same as us; their “neighbourhood” must include a suitable place to live from which they can access food and other requirements over the course of their lifespan. The loss of this “real estate” and the loss of local biodiversity via mass growing of a single crop limit areas where diverse bee communities can survive. The loss or reduction of bees and their pollination services sends ripples throughout the entire ecosystem.
This concept of providing appropriate habitats can also be applied in many other settings to maintain pollinator and plant biodiversity. For example, city planners can integrate green spaces into their layouts, and farmers can enhance or maintain “bee-friendly” habitat on their land to promote diverse native bee communities. Incorporating native flowers and plants into a family garden not only looks nice, but can offer nesting opportunities and a source of nectar and pollen for these insects.