Pollinators in peril

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Many of Vermont’s pollinator species continue to remain in peril, and as Vermonters are returning to their gardens and landscaping projects this spring, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department would like to share with the public a few simple and supportive decisions they can make to greatly benefit our essential pollinator species.

pollinators
Vermont’s pollinators remain in peril and with so many wild plants and commercial food products dependent on bees and other insects, the time to act is now. Photo by Chris Ingram, Vermont Fish & Wildlife

“The majority of our flowering plants need pollinators in order to produce seeds,” says Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department zoologist Mark Ferguson. “Vermont is home to hundreds of species of pollinators from bees to butterflies to beetles and other bugs that play a vital role in pollinating our flowers, trees, and food crops. These insects are responsible for pollinating 60 to 80% of Vermont’s wild plants and play a critical role in the propagation of fruits and vegetables in gardens, wild berry patches, commercial berry farms, and apple orchards. Vermont’s bees also play an important role in pollinating early spring wildflowers like spring beauty and trout lily.”

“But many pollinator species in Vermont are in trouble,” Ferguson says. Habitat loss, invasive species, single-crop farming, disease, and pesticide use are a few of the threats affecting populations of these insects across our state. Vermont’s native bees, which include over 300 unique species and three that are threatened or endangered, are among our pollinators being impacted the most.

A recent examination of our 17 different bumble bees compared recent observations with historical collections and concluded that several species have drastically declined or even disappeared from Vermont, including the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee.

To better understand not only the number and diversity of our native bee species, but also their distribution and population trends, the department and partners are conducting a three-year study, surveying Vermont bees. Vermont Fish & Wildlife is working closely with the Vermont Center for Ecological Studies and is inviting any members of the public interested in contributing to this data collection to email info@vtecostudies.org or visit www.val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vtbees.

Vermonters can also take a stand in conserving our native bees and other pollinators with a few simple household considerations:

  • Provide a variety of vibrant flowers and native plants to attract pollinators to your yard and garden.
  • Learn to live with wildflowers and weeds growing in your yard and fields. Pollinators prefer a variety in their habitat, even if it looks untidy to humans.
  • Keep an eye out for bare patches of lawn where ground-nesting bees may make their home.
  • Use pesticide alternatives such as pollinator-friendly barriers to keep unwanted pests off your plants.
  • Avoid using insecticides – especially those that contain neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin.
  • Reduce the amount of property that is mowed, mow less often, and consider leaving fields unmowed until October when most pollinators have finished their pollinating activities.

You can also ensure the viability of Vermont’s pollinators by contributing to our habitat conservation projects though the Vermont Habitat Stamp program: www.vtfishandwildlife.com/node/225.

To learn more about Vermont’s pollinators and additional ways to help, please visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com/node/191 or contact Mark.Ferguson@vermont.gov.

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