Green Eating, Bees and Butterflies: How Pollinators are Linked to Nutrition

As the weather turns warmer and flowers start to bloom, you may have noticed more pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, visiting those flowers.  xylocapa-225171_640What you may not realize is that animal pollinators (which also include many other types of insects, such as beetles and ants, and larger animals, such as bats and birds) are needed for the production of over one third of the food crops consumed by humans.

These foods include apples, pears, bananas, grapes, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, mangos, almonds, cashews, avocados, tomato, sugarcane, coconut, vanilla, chocolate and coffee, and of course honey, among many others.

Imagine waking up in a world without pollinators:  Having to do without your morning cup of coffee or tea, not having access to your favorite fruits or nuts, no sugar or honey, chocolate or vanilla to prepare your favorite baked goods, no tomatoes for your sandwich or favorite pasta sauce.  Many other foods, spices, and herbs would also decline, becoming harder to find and costlier to produce and purchase, with the loss of pollinators.

Currently about 40% of invertebrate pollinators (such as bees and butterflies) and about 16% of vertebrate pollinators (such as bats and birds) are endangered.  Causes include habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, invasive species, and climate change.

What can be done?

Ideas to help pollinators:

  • Eat a plant-based diet to conserve land use and reduce emissions created in large-scale animal production
  • Choose organics or transitional foods when possible, to support farmers limiting their use of pesticides
  • Try growing your own veggies, herbs, and fruits
  • Support land conservation and the use of native plants in your area and beyond.  Visit nature preserves
  • If you have access to a space to garden, plant pollinator-friendly plants native to your location (for a free pollinator-friendly regional planting guide visit http://www.pollinator.org/guides.htm and enter your zip code)
  • Purchase pollinator-friendly food products when available (Whole Foods, Cascadian Farms, Muir Glen, Almond Breeze, Organic Valley, and General Mills have all made commitments to pollinator-friendly practices).  Please see http://xerces.org/2016/05/25/xerces-in-your-grocery-store-working-to-make-the-food-you-eat-better-for-bees/ for more information
  • Advocate for climate change action, and work on reducing your own contribution to carbon emissions, by combining car trips, ride sharing, biking, or walking when possible, conserving energy use at home, reducing your use of one-use products such as plastic bags and water bottles, reusing items when possible, and recycling
  • For more information on helping pollinators please visit: http://xerces.org/
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