The Importantance of Pollinators

Hello, Adventurers! Welcome back to the Coastal Expeditions blog! If this is your first time visiting our blog, we’re happy to have you here. We are all about nature, adventure, and making the most out of the beautiful outdoors of South Carolina. If you enjoy all things hiking, paddling, kayaking, and spending time outdoors, you’ve come to the right place! Here on the blog, we dive deep into different habitats, excursions, conservation efforts, and nature programs. Our site is filled with interactive maps, destination guides, and educational resources. Since the weather is getting warmer, we want to help you get out there and take advantage of all that the Lowcountry has to offer! We offer guided tours of the beautiful Lowcountry by kayak, paddleboard, ferry, boat, and private charter. We also have hands-on workshops taught by highly-trained guides on wilderness skills, birding, identifying native plants, sustainability, and camping. Basically, anything you want to learn about, we teach! If you haven’t already, we encourage you to take a look around our site to learn more about our offerings. Our last article talked about some of our favorite places for day trips in the Lowcountry. Today, we’ll be switching gears and discussing pollinators and their importance to nature. If you’re interested in learning more, stick around!

 

So, what exactly is a pollinator? A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the stamen, the male part of a flower, to the stigma, the female part of the same or another flower. This process allows the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and the next generation of plants. Some flowers are self-pollinating and some are fertilized by the simple act of wind or water carrying pollen. Others, however, rely on pollinators for fertilization. In fact, between 75 and 95% of flowers and flowering plants need help with pollination. This means pollinators are vital to the survival and reproduction of flowers.

 

Upon hearing the word pollinator, if the first thing to come to your mind is a bee, you would be correct! But, while bees are arguably the most important pollinators, they are not the only ones. Other creatures classified as pollinators include birds, small mammals such as bats, beetles, flies, moths, butterflies, and wasps. Bees intentionally collect pollen and transport it, but other insects and animals visit flowers in search of food and shelter, and sometimes nest-building materials and even mates. By doing this, pollen sticks to them and they unknowingly transport it to the next flower. 

 

In short, pollination keeps flowers and flowering plants alive and thriving. Unfortunately, many pollinator populations are declining. One reason for this decline is habitat loss. Pollinators live in natural areas full of vegetation and flowering plants, and need areas like this in order to find food, such as nectar and pollen. Human development and agriculture are two of the most prominent causes of habitat loss. As more areas of vegetation are removed to make way for new buildings, animals living in those areas essentially lose their homes and food sources. For example, a flowering plant called milkweed, the only genus plant on which the Monarch caterpillar feeds, has been negatively impacted by deforestation. Declines in Milkweed plants have led to the decline of Monarch butterfly populations. 

 

Another cause of population decline among pollinators is the use of pesticides. Pesticides are substances used to control pests such as certain plants, insects, or fungi. Using pesticides can remove plant species and floral resources, contaminate food sources such as pollen grains, and impact multiple generations of pollinators. One study found that 90% of pollen samples from beehives were contaminated with more than one pesticide. Climate change is also responsible for population decline. In response to warmer temperatures, the growing and blooming seasons of flowering plants are changing. This means that the plants are out of sync with their pollinators. Warmer temperatures have also changed migration patterns in pollinators such as butterflies. 

 

Pollinators are essential to a healthy ecosystem. Without pollinators, flowering plants that rely on them would eventually die off and become extinct. Other insects or animals that rely on those plants for food would then be affected, and could eventually become extinct as well. The same goes for organisms that rely on pollinators as their food source. But what does it mean for us if pollinator populations decline? Let’s just say we could be in big trouble. More than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops depend on pollination. One species of honey bee is particularly critical for most pollination services, adding $15 billion in crop value each year. Honey bee pollination increases crop production for many foods, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, among others. Blueberries and cherries rely on honey bees for up to 90% of their pollination. Without pollinators like bees, we would have far less availability and diversity of produce. In the winter of 2018 to 2019 alone, the honey bee population decreased by 40%. Additionally, numerous species of butterflies, moths, and native bees are becoming extremely rare or extinct. 

 

In recent years, actions have been taken to prevent the further decline of pollinators. In 2014, The White House issued a memorandum to establish a Pollinator Task Force. The Pollinator Task Force created a National Pollinator Health Strategy with goals to restore honey bee colony health to sustainable levels by 2025, increase Eastern Monarch butterfly populations to 225 million butterflies by 2020, and restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has partnered with U.S. government laboratories and non-profit organizations to support research, education, and extension programs to advance pollinator health. In 2019, NIFA awarded approximately $4 million in grants for projects related to pollinator health.  

 

Lowcountry Local First, a Charleston-based non-profit, sponsored South Carolina’s first incubator farm in 2012. Located in Johns Island, Dirt Works Incubator Farm is a project that encourages farmers to work cooperatively and grow produce for local markets. The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) of South Carolina partnered with others to host workshops on the importance of pollinators. Workshop participants spread donated wildflower seeds and gained a greater understanding and appreciation of the impacts of pollinators and ways to improve their habitat.

 

If you want to help out pollinators, there are a few ways to do so:

  • Get more plants: Create a garden if you have the capacity, or incorporate pollinator-friendly plants into your landscape or other outdoor space. These include nectar and pollen-rich plants such as wildflowers. Native and non-invasive plants are best. This is a great way to attract pollinators and provide food and shelter. Bonus tip: Incorporate a variety of plants for all seasons, as different plants will attract a wider variety of pollinators.
  • Avoid pesticides and herbicides: As mentioned above, pesticides and herbicides can unintentionally harm pollinators and the plants that they depend on. If you must use pesticides, do so sparingly and responsibly. You can also try adding plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control.
    • Provide clean water: Consider getting a birdbath or catch basin. Add some half-submerged stones for pollinators to perch on while they get a drink!
    • Support land conservation: Volunteer with local organizations to clean up your community or attend tree planting events. Activities such as these are great for supporting a healthy ecosystem. You may also consider creating and maintaining a community garden in your area to ensure that pollinators have a clean and bountiful habitat. 
    • Do more research: Make an effort to learn more about pollinators and their importance!
    • Reduce your impact: Clean up litter, recycle, try to reduce the amount of plastics you use, consider composting, buy local and organic, avoid disposable products, get a reusable water bottle… There are many ways you can be more eco-friendly in your everyday life! This will reduce your carbon footprint and help create a healthier world for pollinators!
  • Support local bees and beekeepers: Buy local honey and beeswax products to support beekeepers in your area. 
  • Spread awareness: Talk to your friends and family about the importance of pollinators. Many people have heard about the effort to “save the bees”, but are they aware of the decline of other pollinator species? 

 

As you can see, pollinators are extremely vital to our world. They help plants and crops thrive, which we then use for produce. Without pollinators, we wouldn’t eat! We hope that you found this article informative and helpful! As always, we thank you for reading and we hope to see you back on our blog soon! If you’re looking to explore all that the Lowcountry has to offer, check out our offerings on our website to find the adventure which suits you best! We also offer kid-friendly tours as well as kids programs, camps, and kayak lessons. Our tours are led by knowledgeable, approachable naturalists and master captains who are eager to answer your questions! Until next time, readers. Get out there and explore! Adventure awaits!

Explore. Chat. Visit. And come on back, y’all.
@coastalexpeditions

Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant Rentals

Offering Kayaks and Paddleboards

Take in the stunning beauty of local creeks and waters from one of our kayaks or SUPs. Walk-ups are welcome or call / text to book and we’ll be ready when you are. All gear and instruction provided.

Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.

Outpost Location

Need A Guide?

If you really want to get a feel for the local history, identify the native wildlife, and get to special places, you'll need someone experienced to show you the way. We'll get you there.

Check out our Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant tours.

Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard Click to Book via Text

Isle of Palms Rentals

Offering Kayaks and Paddleboards

Take in the stunning beauty of local creeks and waters from one of our kayaks or SUPs. Walk-ups are welcome or call / text to book and we’ll be ready when you are. All gear and instruction provided.

Call or text 843.884.7684 to book.

Outpost Location

Need A Guide?

If you really want to get a feel for the local history, identify the native wildlife, and get to special places, you'll need someone experienced to show you the way. We'll get you there.

Check out our Isle of Palms tours.

Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard Click to Book via Text