DOINews: USFWS Director's Corner: Like Pumpkin Pie? At Thanksgiving We Need to Thank Pollinators

Last edited 09/05/2019

A version of this message was posted Nov. 25 on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe's Director's Corner.

Pumpkin pie is a standard at Thanksgiving dinners around the country, and why not? It is delicious.

Did you realize, though, that without bees to pollinate the pumpkins, our traditional dessert would not be. And without pollinators like bees, bats, birds and butterflies, we could pretty much say goodbye to chocolate, coffee and almonds. Equally scarce would be most fruits and vegetables.

squash bee
Some bees are specialists that only pollinate certain plants. This squash bee works the Cucurbita crops—squash and pumpkins. Photo courtesy of Nancy Adamson and the Xerces Society via the Department of Agriculture.

About 75 percent of the world's food crops and native plants rely on pollinators to produce fruits and seeds. In the United States alone, insect pollinators contributed to more than $29 billion of crops in 2010.

Pollinators are just as important to sustaining functioning ecosystems and food for wildlife. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of birds and mammals, ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears.

But pollinators are at risk from habitat loss, improper pesticide use and introduced diseases.

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign is doggedly working to conserve pollinators.

One of the strategies is so simple it is amazing. It's called S.H.A.R.E. (simply have areas reserved for the environment).

S.H.A.R.E. encourages the public to share part of their lands with pollinators by providing food, shelter and water for them. The idea is that “everyone with a landscape can get involved in making a difference for pollinators.”

That's a great idea. As humanity spreads over more and more of the planet, we all need to be better stewards of the land and nature around us.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to contribute to pollinator conservation and education. For example: We're implementing recovery actions for federally listed pollinators like the lesser long-nosed bat and Lange's metalmark butterfly, supporting monarch and bat conservation projects throughout the world, conducting native bee surveys on some refuges, , and holding workshops for teachers and camps for youth with pollinator-focused activities …

pumpkin pie

Squash bees had a hand in this. Photo by by Ann Larie Valentine, Creative Commons.

No one wants to see a world without the benefits that pollinators provide. Without them, the ability of agricultural crops and wild plants to produce food products and seeds is jeopardized.

This year after you do some stretching to make room for that extra slice of pumpkin pie, be sure to thank the squash bee that made the deliciousness possible, and remember the bats, bees and other pollinators that contribute to make so many of our foods possible and consider helping them out.

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