The plight of the honeybees got top billing in the Minneapolis paper today, with a feature article on our endangered food supply that is so dependent on bee pollinators, honeybees in particular.
You might have known about the California almond crop dependency on honeybee pollinators (in fact, almonds are 100% bee pollinated), but broccoli, various fruits including cherries and blueberries, cucumbers, and melons (among 100+ foods we eat regularly) are also heavily dependent on bees for pollination and fruit set. Honeybees are in trouble for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with the impact of agro-chemicals on insects of all sorts.
Butterflies are less important for pollination of agricultural crops, but vital to the pollination of certain wildflower species. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) probably got its name originally as a result of its attractiveness to a variety of butterflies (as well as bees). But where are all the butterflies these days?
Our local butterfly populations seem sparse compared to what they were a few years ago, whether a result of harsh winters, late springs, drought in areas through which they migrate, habitat destruction in their overwintering areas, or too many chemicals in the environment.
In China, they pollinate fruit crops by hand — I hope that isn’t what we will have to resort to in the future.