During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, travel outside our homes and neighbourhoods has been severely restricted. Thankfully, nature’s pollinators have not faced the same restrictions on their movement. They’ve been roving through gardens and green spaces since early spring, busily pollinating plants as they feed on the nectar produced within each flower. Yet they too are facing threats, and need our help if they’re to continue with their vital role in our ecosystem.
Pollination happens when pollen is moved from one part of a flower (the anther) to another part (the stigma). This transfer occurs as bits of pollen stick to the bodies of the pollinating creatures and get brushed off as they move across and between flowers. Even though the transfer happens accidentally, as the pollinator feeds on nectar, it is needed for the plant’s reproduction cycle. Once fertilized, the plant can reproduce and grow the fruits, seeds and vegetables that we depend on.
While most people usually think of bees, pollinators actually include bats, butterflies, beetles, moths, flies and wasps, as well as some species of birds like the hummingbird. These hard-working creatures are kept busy from early spring to late summer and number in the thousands of species. In Canada, there are 800 species of bees alone. This is a good thing because up to 90 percent of flowering plants need help reproducing. That’s 180,000 plant species and 1,200 varieties of crops that we eat — about one bite of food out of every three!
In addition to helping produce food for us humans, pollinators do other important things for the soil, other animal species that feed on flowering plants, and the entire ecosystem. But they are having a hard time surviving. Their nesting grounds and food sources are being destroyed by growing cities. Pesticides and disease are affecting their health and ability to reproduce. And climate change is affecting their populations in ways we don’t yet understand.
It’s time to start paying serious attention to all the things we can do to help pollinators. We can begin by learning more about what they do and how they do it. Then we can take actions to help support them in our own gardens and neighbourhoods.
As the restrictions on our movements begin to lessen and we all head back in to the great outdoors, let’s commit to helping some of nature’s most amazing workers.
5 Ways Scouting Youth Can Partner With Pollinators?
Set some goals to help pollinators and achieve the Personal Achievement badge for Science! Here are some activities to try.
Help bees in your community.
Bees are important pollinators. Building a simple bee hotel can provide some species of wild bees with the cavities or tunnels they need for laying their eggs or larvae. If you’re keen to take things to the next level, you can even try your hand at beekeeping!
Become a birder.
Not all pollinators are insects. Some birds are pollinators, too. Give birding a try, and discover more about these important creatures.
Become a citizen scientist.
Photographing and identifying pollinators helps you understand your neighbourhood better. Passing that information on to working scientists for their research and programs is just, well, cool. Helping out in this way makes you a citizen scientist. You can share your observations through iNaturalist and Bumble Bee Watch.
Plant flowers that provide the pollens needed by pollinators.
Planting flowers that appeal to pollinators gives them a source of food. You can join a community garden to plant flowers and vegetables that help pollinators and produce food. Planting milkweed provides monarch butterflies with a plant essential to their well-being. Plant other native wildflowers by seed bombing.
Learn more about pollinators.
Educating ourselves is always the first step towards change. The Government of Canada’s BioKits will start you on your learning journey!