However, an alarming UN report predicts that these pollinating species are on the path to extinction – something that would have a catastrophic impact on global food supplies. According to The Associated Press, the report suggests that we need to take immediate action to prevent the extinction of these species, before it is too late.
The importance of pollinatorsResearch has shown that the value of insects to agriculture is enormous and irreplaceable, with the continued decline in pollinator populations possibly leading to an increase in global malnutrition according to Science magazine. This is because they support crops that provide an essential food supply to regions of the world that are already suffering from malnutrition and food shortages – meaning that these regions will be hit the hardest by the decline.
The UN warns that, of approximately 20,000 pollinating species, two out of five invertebrate pollinators (such as bees and butterflies) are seeing a huge decline in numbers. This isn't a new decline and is something that scientists have been observing for several years as reported by Global Research.
What is causing the decline in numbers?Changes to farming practices have meant that the diversity of plant species in any one area is much more restricted and there are fewer wild flowers for pollinators to feed on. This is a huge problem in the U.S. where large expanses of land are dedicated to growing fields of only a single crop.
Meanwhile, the growth of cities and urbanization of our countryside has removed some of the vital habitat for bees and other pollinators, meaning that they need to travel further to find food. The combination of this habitat removal with the impacts of global warming, which is altering the types of plants that are able to grow in different locations, means that our pollinators are actually starving to death.
The decline has also been associated with pesticide use, and NOLA.com has reported that neonicotinoids in particular could be a problem for pollinators. Neonicotinoids are a controversial type of pesticide that attacks the nervous systems of "pests" but is not species specific – meaning that bees and other pollinators are also affected.
In addition to pesticides, herbicides are also playing a part in this decline, with popular agrichemical Roundup, produced by Monsanto, also being linked to the widespread decline of two key pollinators – honeybees and monarch butterflies. This herbicide wipes out many of the plants that pollinators depend upon for food, such as milkweed.
This UN report has taken two years to complete and is the result of the cooperative work of many scientists from around the world. The report, which draws on a variety of scientific studies, states, "The variety and multiplicity of threats to pollinators and pollination generate risks to people and livelihoods. These risks are largely driven by changes in land cover and agricultural management systems, including pesticide use."
Local action is required in multiple countries in order to solve the problem, and government agencies need to give more careful consideration to the way that farming is impacting the land and the way that crop production is managed. In the UK, farmers are now being paid to plant wildflowers in hedge rows and on unused pieces of land in order to provide food for bees, which is something that could also help pollinators in the U.S. if the same incentives were put in place. If you are a keen gardener, you can also play your part by growing your own bee colony, which not only provides you with honey but also helps to ensure that there are enough pollinators around to pollinate the world's food supply for years to come.