Human health and pollinators

By Blake Van Jacobs

Last week was Pollinator Week—but why should you care?  Humans rely on many insects, arachnids, birds, and bats to survive, and the work they do can make us healthier. We like to think of pollinators as bees and butterflies, because we generally like them, but it’s often our instinct to swat, spray, kill, and even discourage other pollinators from visiting our yards.

Did you know that at least 1 out of every 3 bites of food you take are possible because of pollinators?  Eating is obviously essential to our survival, and the work these pollinators perform adds between $235-577 Billion worth of global food supply.  Pollinators often go unnoticed, but they are critical to non-human species survival, biodiversity and this has a $50 Billion value to U.S. tourism and recreation. 

Insects help humans survive by cleaning up—they eat plant matter, animals/other insects we consider pests (worth $4.5 Billion in pest control), already dead animals, and even dung. All of this helps to reduce the waste we deal with, disease, and can even prevent forest fires.  Entomoptherapy is the use of insect derived products in medicine—everything from the use of honey to the treatment for inflammatory diseases (like arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis) using bee venom—known as apitherapy.

Pollinator habitats is being reduced and disease, parasites, climate change, and contaminants/chemicals are reducing pollinators.  Insects have been dying off at a rapid rate, with studies showing a 41% of species having steep declines in the last decade and 40% of insects species threatened with extinction.  If these declines continue, it could lead to a “total collapse of nature” and threatens the survival of humankind.

You can help by creating a habitat in your yard.  Plant clumps of native plants that flower at different times of the season and are correctly sited to the soil and sun. Don’t use pesticides/chemicals to control pests—create a healthy ecosystem so they take care of themselves.  Don’t forget insects and all pollinators need help at all stages of their life—some need to eat the plants (monarch caterpillars and milkweed), not just the flowers; some need plants/trees for habitat, and they need places to survive the winter.  Practice conservation for all pollinators, and support farmers who use less chemicals and provide pasture habitat.  Together we can save pollinators…and ourselves.


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