June 16-22 was National Pollinator Week as designated by the U.S. Department of Interior. The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture signs the proclamation every year. It’s a time to celebrate and educate about pollinating animals, such as bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, and others, which are extremely vital to our ecosystem. Pollinators support much of our wildlife, lands and watersheds. According to the US Forest Service, nearly 80 percent of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products require pollination by animals. In the United States, pollination by honeybees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually. Pollination results when the pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma) and fertilizes it, resulting in the production of fruits and seeds. Some flowers rely on the wind to move pollen, while others rely on animals to move pollen. Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators. Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, and diseases and parasites. Many pollinators are federally “listed species,” meaning that there is evidence of their disappearance in natural areas. The U.S. has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years. Although National Pollinator Week has come and gone, let’s continue to celebrate the critical role that these animals play in bringing us our food supply. Pollination is vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. As a tribute to these amazing creatures, I encourage you to watch this stunning short video (an excerpt from the movie, Wings of Life) created by cinematographer and filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg. Enjoy.
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