The world relies on pollinating insects. Without these industrious creatures, humanity would be facing some serious problems, chief among these would be food shortage. Without the assistance of pollinators like bees and butterflies, many plants could not produce fruits and seeds.
In Western New York, the Pollinator Conservation Association is focused on restoring habitat along the Niagara River corridor. This will in turn benefit struggling pollinators, many of which are facing serious threats to their populations.
"You have to understand what the habitat is," said Jay Burney, one of the board members of the PCA. "For instance on Buffalo's Outer Harbor, we know that for thousands and thousands of years it was a marshland and sand area, so we're looking at the historical value of the place, what it contributed to the general biodiversity of the planet and of the region.
"So yeah, we look at the Outer Harbor, we look at the sand area and the marshes and we try to restore it to some level representing what was here."
The first step in restoring habitat is knowing which plants to introduce, and which to remove.
Along the Outer Harbor, a lot of invasive plants have been removed and replaced by native species. Burney explains that there must also be a proper mixture of both host and flowering plants.
"Host Plants are critical. Host Plants are the plants that the adult lays it's eggs on and the young feed on," Burney said. "A great example is Monarch Butterflies with Milkweed. Flowering plants are used by almost all insects , generalists, that sip the nectar and gather the pollen, and share the pollen for pollination. "
The poster children for the plight of pollinators are Honeybees and Monarch Butterflies. Both are facing serious problems. But native bees are in need of assistance as well.
"In the United States there are over four thousand native bee species." Burney said. "In the Great Lakes, there are over 2,000 native bee species, and in NY State, there are over four hundred native bee species. We don't know much about them or where they are, but we do know that ecological integrity and habitat restoration has everything to do with native pollinators and native bees."
Wasps and Hornets are perhaps the most feared and misunderstood of the pollinators, but they too, contribute to the process.
"The role of these animals is they are predators, Burney said. "They are also pollinators, in that most of them have hairy parts, and that's what carries the pollen. But the most important part about wasps and hornets is that they prey on pests."
The stigma against stinging insects is a phobia deeply ingrained in our society, but they are an integral part of the ecology, so we must learn to live with them.
The mission of groups protecting them are critical to the future of the planet, and to the benefit of us all.
"Our health is dependent on Nature, and once we understand that, we start learning how to protect Nature, and that's basic fundamental living in the twenty-first century, we've got to save Nature to save ourselves," Burney said.
To learn more about the Pollinator Conservation Association, click here