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What are Pollinators?

Pollinators are animals (primarily insect, but sometimes birds or mammals) that fertilize plants, resulting in the formation of seeds and the fruit surrounding seeds. Humans and other animals rely on pollinators to produce nuts and fruits that are essential components of a healthy diet. Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world's food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce.

Insect pollinators include bees, (honey bees, solitary species, bumblebees); pollenwasps (Masarinae); ants; flies and mosquitoes; lepidopterans, both butterflies and moths; and flower beetles. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields.

Pollinators are Declining

Climate change, habitat loss/degradation, intensive farming, and pesticides are all major contributors to recently observed losses of both native insect pollinators (e.g. butterflies, wild bees) and commercially managed honey bee colonies in the US. For example, the rusty patched bumble, a once common native pollinator across the Northeast and Upper Midwest, has seen population declines of ~87% since the late 1990s and is now listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

Pollinators Are Declining Globally

The Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

New Map Highlights Bee Population Declines Across the U.S.

What can you do to help Pollinators? 

Consider planting a pollinator garden on your property using native flowering plants. Avoid or minimize the use of pesticides as they can be very harmful to pollinator insects.  

Plants for Pollinators

Bee Smart Pollinator Gardener

Pollinator Stewardship

For more information on Pollinators, select the links below.

Insects & Pollinators

The Importance of Pollinators

USDA Programs and Resources to Support Beekeepers Factsheet: This factsheet provides a summary of USDA insurance programs, disaster assistance programs, loan programs, and other resources for beekeepers

Farmers Can ‘Bee’ a Friend to Pollinators

What is a pollinator?

Pollinator Stewardship

Learn More About Pollinators 

The Business of Bees USDA Farm Service Agency blog about the beekeeping industry