Pollinator populations face multiple threats that impact their ability to thrive and survive including habitat loss, climate change, misuse of pesticides, parasites and pathogens, and invasive species. Together, these factors have contributed to shrinking and shifting pollinator populations, particularly insect pollinators. There is often not enough data to clearly determine cause and effect, which is even more concerning. Pollinators benefit from even small actions, and we all have a role to play in helping them.
Pollinators need habitat for feeding and nesting. They need a diversity of pollen sources for their young and nectar to fuel their flight. Flowers provide them with food. Pollinators find homes in the ground and use leaves and stems. As a result of agricultural intensification and human development, their habitat is shrinking.
What we do: We are working to increase pollinator habitat with resources and programs that help farmers, municipalities, and other individuals and organizations to plant for pollinators. Our new Project Wingspan ON focuses on increasing the native seed supply for plants that support monarch butterflies.
Climate change is a challenge for many species, but has a disproportionate impact on pollinators and the plants that they feed on. Phenological mis-match, or a change in the timing of plant and insect life cycles, is a growing concern, and one that can have severe impacts on the ability of pollinators to find food. Species in the arctic are especially at risk. Increased frequency of severe weather events associated with climate change can have potential negative impacts on important pollinator species as well by destroying habitat.
What we do: Our research programs and community science initiatives aim to collect data that helps act on climate change. We are working to understand how pollinator species in the north are responding to changes in their climate as well as mapping the plant species they are using.
Misuse of pesticides
When used incorrectly, pesticides can have extreme negative effects on pollinators, including behavioural alteration, cognitive delays, low and slow growth, reduced reproduction, and death. Using pesticides prophylactically harms pollinators and the environment, and can make pest problems worse. Integrated Pest Management provides an opportunity for alternative actions before using pesticides.
What we do: We work with farmers, gardeners, land managers, and industry to develop tools and programs that help keep pollinators safe from pesticides. Our Bee Friendly Farming program focuses on building sustainable practices that minimize risk to pollinators.
Parasites & pathogens
Pollinators also face pressure from parasites and pathogens that can cause disease, decrease their health, and lower their numbers. Parasites like the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) have significant health impacts to honey bees and impact the economics of beekeeping. Wild pollinators are also impacted by pathogens, like the microorganism Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, which is impacting Monarch butterflies. The prevalence of parasites and pathogens is associated with and worsened by other pressures.
What we do: We support research into pollinator health through partnerships with governments, universities, and beekeepers.
Varroa destructor, the Varroa mite
Non native & invasive species
Ecoregionally-appropriate native plants provide the most benefit to pollinators, whereas exotic and invasive species can negatively impact pollinators by changing ecosystems and outcompeting native plants, resulting in diminished food availability. Some pollinators are generalists and can forage on a wide variety of plants, while others are specialized and rely on particular native plant species for nutrition.
What we do: We educate and support home gardeners and other land managers to plant native species. We also work with partners in the nursery industry to increase Canada’s stock of native plants. The FindYourRoots database is a great tool to plant native species.
Allaria petiolata, wild garlic mustard