by Liia Koiv-Haus, ASLA
At least one third of the food we eat and 75% of flowering plants depend on pollinators: bees, butterflies, moths, bats, birds, wasps, beetles, and other insects (Natural Resources Conservation Service). Meanwhile, pollinator decline is happening due to loss of habitat, disease, parasites, and changing climate. In 2015-2016, 44% of managed bee colonies in the U.S. were lost (Bee Informed Partnership). Continuous declines in bee populations have caused prices for renting bees to skyrocket to four times the price they were in 2004. Data on wild pollinators is lacking, but overall pollinators are declining in 70% of countries due to changing land use patterns, pesticides, and other factors (Apidologie).
In 2014, the Obama Administration established a Pollinator Health Task Force with representatives from departments, agencies, and offices. This task force developed a National Pollinator Health Strategy with an action plan to conduct research on pollinators and restore habitat, prioritizing high risk areas. The action plan involved data collection, sharing, and modeling; strategies for creating affordable seed mixes, especially on post-fire restoration projects; preventing pollinator exposure to pesticides; producing a public education plan; and developing public-private partnerships. A major goal was to increase sheer land area of pollinator habitat, which has spurred strategic planning efforts.
One example strategy to promote pollinator health has been the “colocation” of solar panels and plants to maximize land use benefits: planting native wildflowers and grasses among rows of solar panels.