The Importance of Pollinators in North Carolina

  • North Carolina has a $78 billion agriculture economy that relies on pollinators for crops such as squash, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
  • Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% crops either require or have a higher production because of pollinator insect visit.
  • It has been estimated that native pollinators are responsible for pollinating almost $3.07 billion of US produced fruits and vegetables.
  • Only 2% of wild bee species do 80% of the pollination.
  • Conservation of wild pollinator habitat in agricultural areas can provide several economic benefits in addition to increased crop production these include reduction in area of cultivated land and reduced rental of cultivated honeybees. Farms that include pollinator conservation practices may be eligible for subsidies or receive a premium price for produce that is organic or “environmentally friendly.”
  • In a 1996 study, Americans reported that they spent $33.8 billion on wildlife and bird watching. Insects, including pollinator larvae, are an important food source for birds and provide protein that is vital to young chicks. Pollinator larvae are an important source of this protein. Calculations based on the number of insectivorous birds, places an estimated annual economic value insects to wildlife watching at $19.8 billion.

Current Status of Pollinators in North Carolina

  • The Birds and the Bees Act (NC Senate Bill 225) is currently under review and a report is due March 1, 2016.
  • There are 13 known bumblebee species in NC several of which are threatened. Bombus affinis (rusty patch bumble bee), Bombus terricola (Yellowbanded bumble bee) and Epeoloides pilosula.
  • There are 174 species of butterflies in NC and approximately 1200 moth species.
  • Monarch butterflies journey through NC during both their spring and fall migrations. Because of the threats to pollinator habitats, there has been a loss of important nectar plants as well as a significant loss in the Monarch’s host plant milkweed, which can affect their ability to fly the long distances as a part of migration.

Threats to NC Pollinators

  • Native pollinator habitat loss, limited floral resources
  • Invasive plants
  • Landscape fragmentation due to urbanization
  • Parasites
  • Diseases
  • Overuse of pesticides and fungicides
  • Introduced bee species, feral domesticated bees

Native Plants Should Be Used in Habitat Restoration and Pollinator Gardens

Natives typically:

  • Do not require fertilizers
  • Require fewer pesticides for maintenance
  • Require less water than other nonnative plantings
  • May function to inhibit nonnative weed encroachment
  • Provide permanent shelter and food for wildlife
  • Are less likely to become invasive than nonnative plants
  • Promote local native biological diversity
  • Are preferred by native pollinators

North Carolina Wildlife Federation Impact on Pollinators

We are engaged in projects and programs at many different levels to create a lasting impact across the state.

  • Landscape scale restoration: Engage private landowners and public lands in large scale native meadow and riparian restoration projects. Examples of landscape scale projects include meadow restoration in utility right of ways and private or publicly owned sites > 1 acre.
  • Pollinator Pitstops: Pollinator Pitstops can be any size and created anywhere as long they include native pollinator nectar and host plants. Pollinator Pitstops can be added to residential yards, libraries, community centers, local businesses, the options are endless.
  • Stewardship: Pollinator habitat and monitoring training course will be offered for Habitat Stewards.
  • Partnerships: NCWF will establish strategic partnerships with stakeholders, municipalities and organizations that have an interest in or are currently working on pollinator programs. These partnerships will help to ensure that these gardens have a sustainable long term impact on native pollinators and wildlife in NC.

References

Connelly, H., Poveda, K. & Loeb, G. Landscape simplification decreases wild bee pollination services to strawberry. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 211, 51–56 (2015).

Garibaldi, L. A. et al. From research to action: enhancing crop yield through wild pollinators. Front. Ecol. Environ. 12, 439–447 (2014).

Goulson, D., Nicholls, E., Botias, C. & Rotheray, E. L. Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers. Science (80-. ). (2015). doi:10.1126/science.1255957

Greenleaf, S. S. & Kremen, C. Wild bee species increase tomato production and respond differently to surrounding land use in Northern California. Biol. Conserv. 133, 81–87 (2006).

Hogg, B. N., Bugg, R. L. & Daane, K. M. Attractiveness of common insectary and harvestable floral resources to beneficial insects. Biol. Control 56, 76–84 (2011).

Jones, G. a. & Gillett, J. L. Intercropping With Sunflowers To Attract Beneficial Insects in Organic Agriculture. Florida Entomol. 88, 91–96 (2005).

Losey, J. E. & Vaughan, M. The Economic Value of Ecological Services Provided by Insects. Bioscience 56, 311 (2006).

Menz, M. H. M. et al. Reconnecting plants and pollinators: challenges in the restoration of pollination mutualisms. Trends Plant Sci. 16, 4–12 (2011).

Morandin, L. A., Long, R. F. & Kremen, C. Hedgerows enhance beneficial insects on adjacent tomato fields in an intensive agricultural landscape. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 189, 164–170 (2014).

Morandin, L. A. & Winston, M. L. Pollinators provide economic incentive to preserve natural land in agroecosystems. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 116, 289–292 (2006).

Potter, A. & Lebuhn, G. Pollination service to urban agriculture in San Francisco, CA. Urban Ecosyst. 885–893 (2015). 

Saunders, M. E., Luck, G. W. & Gurr, G. M. Keystone resources available to wild pollinators in a winter-flowering tree crop plantation. Agric. For. Entomol. 17, 90–101 (2015).

Winfree, R., Williams, N. M., Gaines, H., Ascher, J. S. & Kremen, C. Wild bee pollinators provide the majority of crop visitation across land-use gradients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, USA. J. Appl. Ecol. 45, 793–802 (2008).

Wratten, S. D., Gillespie, M., Decourtye, A., Mader, E. & Desneux, N. Pollinator habitat enhancement: Benefits to other ecosystem services. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 159, 112–122 (2012).

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