You may or may not know how important pollinators are to our environment and ecosystem, but they play a significant role in making the world go round. Honeybees are one of the most important pollinators, and their population has been on the decline for the past several years. Whether or not you have extensive knowledge of pollination, follow along to learn more about the effects of climate change on pollination to broaden your understanding of the environment.
What Is Climate Change?
To understand climate change, you must first know what climate is. Climate is the average weather of a particular area, which scientists and meteorologists define through various observations over several hours, weeks, days, months, and years. If you’ve lived in the same area for most of your life, you probably know what to expect when it comes to the climate throughout a typical year.
Overall, the climate maintains a pattern for a particular area, but it is possible to see weather movements that differ from the average. Climate change is a phenomenon in which scientists have observed drastic deviations from normal weather patterns. These climate changes impact humans all over the world because the weather has continued to become more extreme.
For instance, some areas are experiencing hotter and drier summer months, while others see long, harsh winters. People are struggling to adapt to these conditions. And if the most resilient living beings are struggling to adjust, you can probably imagine that insects and other pollinators are much worse off.
How Climate Change Impacts the Bee Population
The bee population is in danger of a common issue that affects an entire colony, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Although there’s no specific proven cause of CCD, many scientists claim that it can result from nutritional deficiencies, pesticide exposure, habitat loss, lack of varied diet, and other factors. Believe it or not, aspects like nutritional deficiencies and a lack of a varied diet are a direct result of climate change, as it can impact the quality of plants and flowers.
Climate change is making flowers bloom earlier than they used to. Although that rate is only half a day earlier each year, flowers are blooming approximately a month or so before they did over 40 years ago. While this may not seem like a big deal, earlier blooms mean the pollinators can’t do their jobs and bees don’t have enough food.
As you can see, this early blooming trend is detrimental to bees, which are one of the top pollinators around the world. If colonies continue to experience CCD and their population keeps declining, we can expect to see food shortages as a result.
The Effects on the Bat Population
Bats are another significant pollinator species that may experience issues related to warmer weather, which affects their hibernation cycles and food availability. The bat population is much lower than it used to be, as climate change makes it much more difficult for mother bats to raise their young. Bats use ultrasonic hearing to detect their prey, and they rely on specific temperature and humidity factors to catch meals. The increasing temperatures make it more difficult for bats to find food sources.
Impacts on the Butterfly Population
Butterflies are another important pollinator, but their population has decreased by roughly 80 percent since the year 2000. Monarch butterflies are on the endangered species list as they only feed on milkweed as caterpillars, and milkweed availability is on the decline due to climate change, deforestation, pesticides, and more.
If these caterpillars can’t make it to the butterfly stage, it’s no wonder that the monarch population is so low. Aside from milkweed, climate change throws off butterflies’ migrating patterns, as they can’t gauge the correct time to lay their eggs. If they go too early, the milkweed won’t be ready for them to lay their eggs on.
The Effects on Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are yet another affected pollinator species, and they’re at risk because of rising temperatures. Higher summer temperatures force various hummingbird species to abandon their home areas for places with much lower and more stable temperatures. These small but mighty birds don’t do very well with heat; as a result, the intense heat will force them to seek shade rather than feed on nectar from trees, flowers, and feeders.
How Can We Help Pollinators?
Now that you know more about how climate change impacts the most significant pollinators worldwide, you should also learn how you can help them overcome these issues to continue doing their jobs. Whether you want to commit a significant amount of time to save these creatures or just do something small to make a difference, you can benefit from implementing some of these ideas in your yard and throughout your community:
- Start beekeeping or include bee-friendly areas on your property, such as a bee watering station, nectar-rich plants, flowers, or untouched natural places.
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard and garden, as they can be extremely harmful to various pollinators in your local area.
- Plant a garden specifically for pollinators, including nectar-rich plants, shelter, and various colors to attract them.
- Spread awareness to those around you by making changes to your lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same.
- Volunteer with a local environmental group or start one in your area to help pollinators directly.
- Plant milkweed on your property to give butterflies a safe place to land, lay their eggs, and stop for a snack.
After learning more about the effects of climate change on pollination, your eyes are most likely open to the issues you may not have noticed before. If you need a reason to keep bees—aside from harvesting honey and natural bee pollen—you should do it because it’ll help protect a crucial pollinator population and our environment. Whether or not you care about the environment and the insects that help it run smoothly, climate change is a significant issue that will only continue to get worse unless we do something to stop it. Protecting the planet goes much deeper than pollinators, but they’re one of the most important factors in the ecosystem as we know it. To learn more about the role you can play in improving pollination, read our blog on how to make a pollinator garden.