The latest buzz is that our pollinators are in trouble. Seven species of yellow-faced bees native to Hawaii were listed as protected endangered species in late 2016, and more recently the rusty-patched bumble bee was also added. These eight species of pollinators are not alone in the threat – another 9% of bee and butterfly populations and 16% of vertebrae populations are at risk.
Scientists and organizations are studying the recent decline in pollinator populations across the globe, including a task force with the United Nations. While we still do not understand a singular underlying cause, we do know that aggressive agriculture practices, pesticide use, and habitat loss are at least partially to blame.
If you’re wondering, “what’s the big deal?” here’s the simple truth: 33% of the food we eat is thanks to our pollinators. In North America alone, bees are responsible for over $25 billion in agricultural production each year. There’s a lot more than honey at stake (as if that wasn’t bad enough), so it’s crucial that we do our part to help these hardworking pollinators thrive.
The good news is that there is actually a lot that we can do about the situation. Providing habitat in agricultural landscapes has been shown to help a variety of pollinators, including bumble bees and honey bees. To expedite habitat rehabilitation, Small Planet Foods recently announced a $4 million partnership with the Xerces Society and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to plant over 100,000 acres of pollinator habitat by 2021.
Beyond building habitats, the partnership will also support six new field biologists who will work with private landowners to implement pollinator-friendly practices and land stewardship. Two-thirds of the continental United States is privately owned and community engagement will be essential to our longer term commitment for pollinators.
Here’s how your favorite brands are doing their part:
- Cascadian Farm: have committed 8,000 acres of pollinator habitat on 100,000 acres of organic farmland. They also support cutting-edge research at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab.
- Annie’s: will immediately build 20 acres of habitat on 500 acres of land on its organic dairy farm (where that delicious mac and cheese originates from).
- Muir Glen: will create pollinator habitats on all of its organic farms by 2021.
- LÄRABAR: planted a five mile pollinator hedgerow on a 2,500 acre almond ranch in 2014. (You can now taste these bee-friendly almonds in their delicious bars.)
- Nature Valley: has matched funds from the USDA to create 35,000 acres of pollinator habitat across the U.S.
Bring Home the Bees
We can all agree that $4 million is a lot of money – but you can make it more! For a limited time, you can text and Small Planet Foods will make a donation to the Xerces Society. To learn more about this great program stop by your local Earth Fare.
You probably also have a little green space at home, right? Habitat efforts can start in your own backyard. (Read: here’s one more excuse not to mow the grass!) So dedicate space in your yard for more than grass and plant a garden – it’s prettier and the bees will thank you. Opt for single bud, native plants because the bees love to eat local and consider installing a house for bees and bats. Most of all never, ever use pesticides and choose organic foods whenever possible because it’s better for the health of our pollinators and you.