Promotion des pollinisateurs

Saviez-vous qu'environ 75 % de toutes les plantes à fleurs comptent sur plus de 200 000 espèces d'animaux, dont plusieurs sont des insectes, pour les aider à se reproduire grâce à la pollinisation? En dehors de toutes autres conséquences écologiques, un tiers de l'alimentation des humains dépend de la pollinisation. L'auteure Liz Smith avertit ses lecteurs que c'est à nos risques et périls que nous ne prêtons pas attention au bien-être de ces créatures qui remplissent cette tâche!

Les populations de pollinisateurs sont menacées par les pertes de leur habitat et de leur alimentation et par les insecticides. Toutefois, il nous est possible d'agir pour promouvoir la " santé des pollinisateurs ". Pour que les citoyens et les citoyennes puissent encourager les pollinisateurs à continuer à polliniser, il leur suffit de planter plusieurs variétés de plantes indigènes qui fleurissent et s'épanouissent à différents moments, à différentes hauteurs et sous différentes formes durant le printemps et l'été, de diversifier nos cultures et de réduire notre utilisation d'insecticides et de pesticides.


Promoting Pollinators

Liz Smith
New Brunswick Lung Association

August 2008

id you know that about 75% of all flowering plants on earth rely on over 200,000 species of animals to help them reproduce through pollination? These pollinators include about 1000 species of hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals, while the others are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths. Pollination is the transportation of genetic material via pollen from the anther (male flower part) of one flower to the stigma (female flower part) of another. Disregarding other ecological consequences, one-third of human food is dependant on pollination. It is to our peril that we ignore the welfare of the creatures that carry on this task!

In Canada, our key pollinators are bees, butterflies, and moths. Because they need pollen and nectar throughout their lives, and have hairy bodies and pollen baskets on their legs or abdomens, bees are the most important of our pollinators. However, bees' and other pollinators' populations are under threat to the point that the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has adopted the International Pollinators Initiative, resulting in the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign that began in 2000.

In Canada, our key pollinators are 
bees, butterflies, and moths.
(Photo: Richard Duplain)

The main cause of population decline in wild pollinators such as butterflies, moths, and bees is loss of habitat and forage through urbanization and industrial farming. The very weeds that we industriously zap with herbicides provide alternative food to the wild pollinators on which the production of crops, such as our strawberries, apples, blueberries, and squash, depends. The solution to this problem is to provide nectar-bearing flowers and blossoming bushes as a continuous source of nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. If we wish to have blueberries, our bees must have a source of food to keep them going when the blueberries are not blooming.

In our urban home gardens we can provide a variety of native perennials, a mini wildflower meadow area, and indigenous fruit bushes such as hawthorn, American mountain ash, chokecherry, elderberry, honeysuckle, and high-bush cranberry that bloom and blossom at different times, heights, and shapes over the spring and summer. Click here for a database of plants native to New Brunswick, many of which are available at your local garden centre.

Blueberries are one of the crops that depends on pollinators. 
(Photo: Mary Ann Coleman)

Farmers can promote pollinators by diversifying their farms and providing field borders of wild flowers and hedgerows of diverse native bushes and trees. This will encourage pollinators and, through beneficial insects and birds, help keep crop-eating insects at bay. Golf courses can favour wildflowers and indigenous bushes on their secondary roughs, among other techniques. MTBW Golf Design in Ontario refers to a whole array of ecologically positive measures, "As a result, the golfer can look forward to playing more challenging golf courses that rely on finesse and accuracy, rather than on distance." This would be more like the original game played on the Scottish heaths!

According to Environment Canada's on-line EnviroZine, the use of insecticides is a key factor in undermining the population health of pollinators. Not only are "…many insecticides used on lawns and gardens more effective at killing beneficial insects than pests," but "…even at low levels, pesticides affect longevity, memory, navigation, and foraging abilities of the honeybee." These are more good reasons not to use pesticides unless absolutely necessary. By taxing pollinators' general health via insecticides and lack of food and habitat, we also are causing them to be more vulnerable to diseases caused by mites and viruses.

Many garden vegetables reply on pollinators. 
(Photo: Mary Ann Coleman)

Many of the diseases affecting pollinators were brought in by the trade in domestic bees. For example, mites from South America and Asia are killing 30% to 50% of domestic beehives in Eastern Canada. It is not clear how much of the wild population has been affected. The virus that researchers at Columbia University have found to be most likely implicated in the colony collapse disorder (CCD) decimating domestic beehives in the US is the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV). This has naturally prompted severe restrictions on the transportation of the domestic hives on which beekeepers depend for their livelihood.

Besides diversifying our home green spaces with a pesticide-free habitat of native flowering plants and bushes to attract wild pollinators, we can give additional practical help to the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign by clicking here, and becoming a Pollinator Observer. There are educational materials to download and a Pollinator Observer kit to use. What a great project for a school class, summer camp, or parents and grandparents to take on with their children or grandchildren! Through learning by direct observation about the interdependency of the living things that share our planet, whether in a natural meadow or a naturalized home garden, today's children just might live a little more lightly than recent generations.

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