Here’s What’s Killing 4 Important Pollinators (And How You Can Stop It)

Why are so many animals that pollinate our flowers, trees and food crops under siege? Generally speaking, it’s because we humans don’t value these creatures enough to band together to protect them.

So much food is available in grocery stores and farmers markets, it’s probably hard to believe that our food system might actually be threatened due to lack of pollination.

Regardless of the reason for our nonchalance, it’s a mistake. That’s because the creatures that pollinate the plants that produce our food also pollinate the plants that support the very web of life, what scientists call biodiversity. So even if you don’t care whether bees will be around to pollinate your almonds or apples, you should probably worry that pollinating bees, butterflies, bats and birds may not be around to help thousands of plants survive in the wild. Because without all those wild plants, entire ecosystems could collapse.

To drive the point home, here’s a description of what’s killing four pollinators we depend on for both food and beauty and what you can do to stop it.

Honey And Bees

Honey Bees and Bumble Bees - Honey bees live in colonies of tens of thousands, buzzing around in a hive or a colony. The colonies have become infected with a bacteria called Paenibacillus larvae. The bees themselves have been attacked by mites. Both the mites and the bacteria, plus pesticide exposure, and the disruptive way the bees are trucked around the country to pollinate crops like almonds,  have led to what scientists call colony collapse disorder.

Climate change is also a large factor, because warming global temperatures has accelerated flowering seasons and the bees haven’t quite caught up yet. In other words, flowers that bees normally depend on for food have bloomed and faded before the bees arrive to feed on them. Bees are also particularly susceptible to a kind of pesticide called a neonicotinoid. “Fully half of the 46 or 47 species of bumble bees in the U.S. seem to be in some level of decline,” reports Bioscience.

What you can do: You can help make a difference by not only gardening organically yourself, but by shifting your spending to purchasing organically grown food. Consumer demand creates the financial incentives farmers need to stop using insecticides. Show them there’s a market for food grown with pollinators in mind. On the energy front, do your part to help put the breaks on climate change by driving less, switching to solar and wind, and saving energy at home and at work. Here are some great energy saving tips you can adopt today.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterflies – Any animal that migrates is particularly at risk, because opportunities for them to be exposed to threats occur all along their migratory path and at virtually every stage of their life cycle. One such case is that of monarch butterflies.

These elegant creatures have a complex life cycle that takes them, in some cases all the way from the eastern seaboard of the U.S. to Mexico, a trip of 2,000 miles. As they travel, they need flowers on which to lay their eggs and nectar to eat. But lack of their primary food source, milkweed, along with rampant pesticide spraying, habitat loss and climate change, is killing monarchs in alarming numbers. Scientists say that the number of monarchs that overwintered in Mexico in 2012-2013 was only 59 percent of those that overwintered the year before, reports Bioscience. Monarchs cannot survive cold winters so they have no choice but to migrate.

What you can do: Grow a butterfly garden that will provide both food for the adults and host plants on which adults can lay eggs to support new populations. Practice organic gardening, planting milkweed and other plants that monarchs specifically love. Consider becoming a Certified Monarch Waystation and convince your neighbors and community to do the same.

Gambian epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus gambianus) flying at night.

Bats – In addition to loss and degradation of habitat, bats may be killed indiscriminately simply because people are superstitious about them or fear bats carry disease. Bats are also hunted for food and folk medicine. Non-native, invasive species like snakes, ants and feral pigs can also take their toll. Bat Conservation International says as many as 25 of the 47 U.S. and Canadian bat species may be vulnerable to the introduced fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the cause of White-nose Syndrome. By some estimates, WNS has killed more than 6 million bats since 2006 in central and eastern North America.

What you can do: Support global bat conservation by “adopting” a baby bat. Urge your elected officials to support national and global policies that will protect endangered bat “hot spots,” reduce habitat destruction and fund research into strategies to protect bats. At home, build bat houses to make it easy for bats to reproduce, raise their young and shelter in a safe place. You can find instructions here.


Hummingbirds – Hummingbirds are important in the U.S. for the role they play in pollinating wildflowers. Because hummingbirds have good eyes, they’re particularly attracted to bright colors like red, yellow or orange. They love flowers that produce abundant nectar, so they manage to collect pollen on their heads and back when they stick their long beaks into the flower blossom to take a nectary slurp.

But hummingbirds face a lot of threats. Like other animals, they’re losing habitat as suburbs expand, industrial agriculture spreads and clearcutting knocks down forests. Hummingbirds are much smaller than may other birds which makes them more vulnerable to pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and pollution. They could be attacked by cats, fly into windows or get diseases from dirty hummingbird feeders. Plus, invasive plants might crowd out the native nectar producers that hummingbirds need to survive.

What you can do: If you have a cat, keep it inside, particularly during the day, when hummingbirds are out and feeding. Put up a hummingbird feeder, but clean it regularly so that the food it provides is clean and healthy to eat. Of course, garden organically and use no toxic chemicals in and around your yard. Urge your neighbors to do the same, and work with local officials to create non-toxic, safe habitats for all of the pollinators that visit your ecoregion. And plant cardinal flowers and other plants specifically to attract and nourish hummingbirds.

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M. M.
M. M2 years ago


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Joe Le Gris
Joe Legris2 years ago

Shall make more effort to buy organic. Thanks

Marie P.
Marie P2 years ago


Jacqueline L.

Great Article!

Jacqueline L.

Thank you!

Joe Le Gris
Joe Legris2 years ago

Making a much bigger effort to support organic growing

Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.