Importance of Pollinators
Pollinators — including bees, bats, beetles, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, moths and wasps — are responsible for one-third of the human food supply worldwide. Pollinated crops — including alfalfa, almonds, apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash — contributed $29 billion to the U.S. economy in 2010. Farmers in the U.S. who grow fruit, nut, berry, and vegetable crops are critically reliant on managed and wild pollinators for their livelihood — as are commercial honey producers and commercial beekeepers who provide pollination services to growers.
Yet vital pollinator species are suffering significant population declines, variously attributed to climate change, pesticides, invasive species, and exotic diseases. The most dramatic example of this general loss in population is the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, currently afflicting honeybee colonies throughout the United States. Not usually given to ecological anxieties, many American farmers today are questioning the wisdom of chemical-intensive agriculture.
The Heinz Center’s Pollinator Initiative
The Heinz Center can play a constructive role in pollinator conservation by engaging rural communities and extension agents in discussions on the current science of pollinator conservation. With pollinator experts on staff, a long record of scientists informing environmental management, and a capable outreach and communications team, the Heinz Center is well positioned to synthesize the best current scientific thinking about the pollinator crisis and translate that thinking into effective communications with American growers.
What We’re Doing
Currently, our Pollinator Conservation Team is collaborating with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) in conducting research on present pollinator species and crop pollination services. Our partnership with UDC is ongoing and will continue to expand in the future to look into exotic crop pollination, urban agriculture, and pollinator conservation.
Additionally, our Pollinator Conservation Team is actively developing a pilot program in the state of Rhode Island that focuses on research of various nesting substrates and foraging habitats for pollinator population health and abundance. Our staff is currently working with agricultural organizations, university faculty and staff, and growers in the state to establish this program. We plan to study the relationships between pollinator presence and conservation efforts with crop pollination services in both rural and urban agricultural settings.
The Pollinator Conservation Team strives to expand these pollinator conservation actions and programs to other eastern states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and more.
The Heinz Center conducted an in-depth analysis of State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs) in the United States to emphasize the importance of future inclusion of pollinators in these action plans. This report describes methods and approaches for incorporating information about pollinators into SWAPs. It is intended for use by wildlife agencies that are responsible for the revision of these reports. The strategies for managing and conserving populations of pollinator species that are described can feasibly be implemented by the state wildlife agencies and their partners. It is also suggested that pollinator conservation activities can be included in the State Wildlife Action Plans, even in cases where the state wildlife agency does not have direct regulatory authority over pollinators.
Pollination services are vital to agriculture, but have become a grave concern in recent years due to pollinator population declines. The recommended management practices described in this report promote pollinator conservation via forage and nesting habitat restoration and creation in an effort to improve the health of native pollinator populations on farms.
The Heinz Center, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Natural Resources Conservation Service (RI NRCS), authored this report to address pollinator conservation efforts on farms in the state of Rhode Island. It describes various native and managed pollinator species in Rhode Island, their habitat requirements, and agricultural best management practices that have the potential to help promote the growth and stability of these populations. Species discussed include seven common bee genera (honey bees; bumble bees; squash bees; mason bees; sweat bees; carpenter bees; mining bees), butterflies and moths, beetles and flies, and the Ruby-throated hummingbird. This report is intended to be a guide for implementation of pollinator-friendly management practices in an agricultural setting for Rhode Island farmers and constituents.