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Pollinators participate in sexual reproduction of many plants, by ensuring cross-pollination, essential for some species, or a major factor in ensuring genetic diversity for others. Since plants are the primary food source for animals, the reduction of one of the primary pollination agents, or even their possible disappearance, has raised concern, and the conservation of pollinators has become part of biodiversity conservation efforts.
As plantings have grown larger, the need for concentrated pollinators at bloom time has grown. At the same time populations of many pollinators have been declining, and this decline has become a major environmental issue today. Pollination management seeks to protect, enhance, and augment agricultural pollination.
For example, feral honey bee populations in the US have dropped about 90% in the past 50 years, except for the Southwest where they have been replaced by Africanized bees. At the same time managed honey bee colonies have dropped by about two thirds.
In North America, during the winter and spring of 2006 – 2007, was a considerable decline in commercially managed honeybee colonies, with losses of about one third of honeybees population. This event is named colony collapse disorder, and has appeared in 35 states of USA affecting honeybees, reporting losses in honeybees colonies as high as 80 to 100 percent for some beekeepers.
Monoculture needs very high populations of bees at bloom, but can make the area quite barren, or even toxic when the bloom is done.
The study of pollinator decline is also interesting to some scientists, as bees have the potential to become a keystone indicator species of environmental degradation. Any changes in their abundance and diversity will influence the abundance and diversity of the prevailing plant species. This is a mutual dependency as bees rely on a steady nectar source and pollen source throughout the year to build up their hive.
It is commonly said that about one third of human nutrition is due to bee pollination. This includes the majority of fruits, many vegetables (or their seed crop) and secondary effects from legumes such as alfalfa and clover fed to livestock.
In 2000, Drs. Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University, attempted to quantify the effects of just one pollinator, the Western honey bee, on only US food crops. Their calculations came up with a figure of US $14.6 billion in food crop value.
There has not been sufficient study to quantify the effects of pollinator decline on wild plants and wild life that depend on them for feed. Some plants on the endangered species list are endangered because they have lost their normal, native pollinators. Honey bees are not native to the Western Hemisphere. The role of honey bees in the Western Hemisphere is almost exclusively agricultural.
Increasing public awareness
The steady increase in beekeeper migration (for pollination service on agricultural crops) has masked the issue of pollinator decline from much public awareness, however sudden blocks to such migration could have catastrophic results on the global food supply.
There are international iniatives (e.g. the International Pollinator Iniative (IPI)) that highlight the need for public participation and awareness of pollinator, such as bees, conservation 
Two studies have linked neonicotinoid pesticide exposure to bee health decline. These two studies, one French, one British, add to a growing body of scientific literature and strengthen the case for removing pesticides toxic to bees from the market. The French study shows that pesticides interfere with honey bee brains, affecting their ability to navigate. The British research finds that pesticides prevent bumble bees from collecting enough food to produce new queens. These studies were released on the heels of an emergency legal petition by beekeepers and environmental groups, that calls for the banning of the bee-killing pesticide clothianidin.
Neonicitinoids are highly toxic to a range of insects, including honey bees and other pollinators. They are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and guttation droplets from which bees forage and drink. They are particularly dangerous because, in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses, they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical as well as dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted. These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies and they include disruptions in mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.
The French study, “A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees,” focuses on the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam, which is metabolized by bees into clothianidin, the pesticide cited in the legal petition. In their study, the researchers used Radio-frequency identification (RFID) to test the hypothesis that a sublethal exposure to a neonicotinoid indirectly increases hive death rate through homing failure in foraging honey bees. When exposed to sublethal doses of thiamethoxam, at levels present in the environment, honey bees were less likely to return to the hive after foraging than control bees that were tracked with RFID, but not intentionally dosed with pesticides. Higher risks are observed when the homing task is more challenging. The survival rate is even lower when exposed bees are placed in foraging areas with which they are less familiar.
The British study, “Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production,” examines the impacts of the pesticide imidacloprid on bumble bee colony health. Researchers exposed colonies of the bumble bees to levels of imidacloprid that are realistic in the natural environment, then allowed them to develop naturally under field conditions. Treated colonies had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of new queens compared to unexposed control colonies. The study is particularly noteworthy because it shows that bumble bees, which are wild pollinators, are suffering similar impacts of pesticide exposure to “managed” honey bees. While several studies have linked pesticides to declining honey bee health, wild pollinators have not been intensively studied as their economically-relevant cousins. That said, wild pollinators still provide essential services both in agriculture and to a wide range of wild plants that could not survive without insect pollination.
On March 21, 2012, commercial beekeepers and environmental organizations filed an emergency legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend use of clothianidin, urging the agency to adopt safeguards. The legal petition is supported by over one million citizen petition signatures, targets the pesticide for its harmful impacts on honey bees. The legal petition points to the fact that the EPA failed to follow its own regulations. EPA granted a conditional, or temporary, registration to clothianidin in 2003 without a required field study establishing that the pesticide would have no “unreasonable adverse effects” on pollinators. Granting conditional registration was contingent upon the subsequent submission of an acceptable field study, but this requirement has not been met. EPA continues to allow the use of clothianidin nine years after acknowledging that it had an insufficient legal basis for initially allowing its use. Additionally, the product labels on pesticides containing clothianidin are inadequate to prevent excessive damage to non-target organisms, which is a second violation of the requirements for using a pesticide and further warrants removing all such mislabeled pesticides from use.
It is a label violation to apply most insecticides on crops during bloom, or to allow the pesticide to drift to blooming weeds that bees are visiting. Yet such applications are frequently done, with little enforcement of the bee protection directions. Pesticide misuse has driven beekeepers out of business, but can affect native wild bees even more, because they have no human to move or protect them.
Bumblebee populations are in jeopardy in cotton-growing areas, since they are dosed repeatedly when pesticide applicators apply insecticides on blooming cotton fields while the bees are foraging.
Widespread aerial applications for mosquitoes, med-flies, grasshoppers, gypsy moths and other insects leave no islands of safety where wild insect pollinators can reproduce and repopulate. One such program can reduce or endanger pollinator populations for several years.
Many homeowners feel that dandelions and clover are weeds, that lawns should only be grass, and that they should be highly treated with pesticides. This makes a hostile environment for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
- Bees and toxic chemicals
- Colony collapse disorder
- Endangered arthropod
- Imidacloprid effects on bee population
- Pesticide toxicity to bees
- Vanishing of the Bees
Rapid transfer of parasites and diseases of pollinator species around the world
Increased international commerce within modern times has moved diseases such as American foulbrood and chalkbrood, and parasites such as varroa mites, acarina mites, and the small African hive beetle to new areas of the world, causing much loss of bees in the areas where they do not have much resistance to these pests. Imported fire ants have decimated ground nesting bees in wide areas of the southern US.
Loss of habitat and forage
The push to remove hedgerows and other "unproductive" land in some farm areas removes habitat and homes for wild bees. Large tractor mounted rotary mowers may make farms and roadsides look neater, but they remove bee habitat at the same time. Old crops such as sweet clover and buckwheat, which were very good for bees have been disappearing. Urban and suburban development pave or build over former areas of pollinator habitat.
Clearcut logging, especially when mixed forests are replaced by uniform age pine planting, causes serious loss of pollinators, by removing hardwood bloom that feeds bees early in the season, and by removing hollow trees used by feral honey bees, and dead stubs used by many solitary bees.
Migratory pollinators require a continuous supply of nectar sources to gain their energy requirements for the migration. In some areas development or agriculture has disrupted and broken up these traditional corridors, and the pollinators have to find alternative routes or discontinue migration. A good example is the endangered lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) which was formerly the main pollinator of a number of cactus species in southwestern United States. Its numbers have severely declined, in part due to disruption of the nectar corridors that it formerly followed. Other migratory pollinators include monarch butterflies and some hummingbirds.
Bees are often viewed negatively by homeowners and other property owners. A search for "carpenter bees" on the Internet primarily yields information on removal rather than information regarding bees in a positive light. Recent hysteria regarding killer bees has contributed to these views. Beekeepers find increased vandalism of their hives, more difficulty in finding locations for bee yards, and more people inclined to sue the local beekeeper if they are stung, even if it is by a yellow jacket.
Increasing use of outside artificial lights, which interfere with the navigational ability of many moth species, and is suspected of interference with migratory birds may also impact pollination. Moths are important pollinators of night blooming flowers and moth disorientation may reduce or eliminate the plants ability to reproduce, thus leading to long term ecological effects. This is a new field and this environmental issue needs further study.
Threat by invasive honey bees
Many native pollinators decline in population when faced with competition from invasive honey bees. For example, the western honey bee is invasive in the United States, the wild population consisting entirely of feral bees escaped from European bee colonies imported to fertilize non-native, old-world crops. Where colony collapse disorder reduced invasive honey bee populations in the US, native pollinators sometimes have made recoveries, restored to their natural niche by the loss.
Researchers at the University of Virginia have discovered that air pollution from automobiles and power plants has been inhibiting the ability of pollinators such as bees and butterflies to find the fragrances of flowers. Pollutants such as ozone, hydroxyl, and nitrate radicals bond quickly with volatile scent molecules of flowers, which consequently travel shorter distances intact. There results a vicious cycle in which pollinators travel increasingly longer distances to find flowers providing them nectar, and flowers receive inadequate pollination to reproduce and diversify. 
The decline of pollinators is compensated to some extent by beekeepers becoming migratory, following the bloom northward in the spring from southern wintering locations. Migration may be for traditional honey crops, but increasingly is for contract pollination to supply the needs for growers of crops that require it.
Conservation and restoration efforts
Efforts are being made to sustain pollinator diversity in agro- and natural eco-systems by some environmental groups. Prairie restoration, establishment of wildlife preserves, and encouragement of diverse wildlife landscaping rather than monoculture lawns, are examples of ways to help pollinators.
Use of alternative pollinators
Honey bees are usually the most widely chosen insects in most managed pollination situations. However they are not the most efficient pollinators of some flowers. Alternative pollinators, such as for example, leafcutter and alkali bees in alfalfa pollination and bumblebees in greenhouses for tomatoes are used to augment and in some cases replace honey bees. A wide variety of other bees can be found in the environment that are specialist pollinators (some only using one plant species). However, most of these alternative insects' value as pollinators and their relationships with plants are as yet little known.
In the US, some think that other pollinators will in time replace the lost honey bees, blamed on introduced acarine and varroa mites, but general pollinator decline was already happening before these entered the picture. Only in a few areas are wild populations of pollinators building up; in most areas they are declining as quickly as honey bees.
Furthermore, pollinators cannot be exchanged on a one-for-one basis, as various species of bees pollinate in different ways. Bees may deliberately collect pollen, but have different collection techniques, which can greatly affect their efficiency as pollinators.
Flowers are frequently specifically adapted to one pollinator, or a small group of pollinators because of floral structure, color, odor, nectar guides, etc. Proposed alternative pollinators may not be physically capable of accomplishing pollination, or they may not be attracted to the flower of that plant species, or they may rob nectar by cutting sepals, thus avoiding pollination. Understanding the pollination needs of a species is vital to understanding of a plant species, yet this is often poorly understood. In horticulture it is critical to the economic success of the grower, and crops have sometimes been abandoned from general use in an area because of lack of understanding of pollinator needs.
- Bees and toxic chemicals
- Colony collapse disorder
- Diseases of the honey bee
- Endangered arthropod
- Imidacloprid effects on bee population
- Pesticide toxicity to bees
- Pollinator Partnership
- Regent (insecticide)
- Global Pollinator Decline: A Literature Review , September 2007. United Nations Environment Programme DEWA/GRID – Europe. pp 2
- Wells, M (March 11, 2007). "Vanishing bees threaten U.S. crops". www.bbc.co.uk (London: BBC News). Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- Byrne, A., and Fitzpatrick, U. 2009. Bee conservation policy at the global, regional and national levels. Apidologie 40(3):194-210
- Henry, Mickaël; Maxime Béguin, Fabrice Requier, Orianne Rollin, Jean-François Odoux, Pierrick Aupinel, Jean Aptel, Sylvie Tchamitchian, and Axel Decourtye (April 20, 2012). "A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees". Science (20): 348–350.
- Penelope, Penelope; Stephanie O’Connor, Felix L. Wackers, and Dave Goulson (April 2012). "Neonicotinoid Pesticide Reduces Bumble Bee Colony Growth and Queen Production". Science (20): 351–352.
- Feldman, Jay. "Protecting Pollinators: Stopping the Demise of Bees". Pesticides and You. Beyond Pesticides.
- Gill, Victoria (7 June 2012) Honeybee virus: Varroa mite spreads lethal disease BBC Nature News, Retrieved 11 June 2012
- The Value of Honey Bees As Pollinators of U.S. Crops in 2000, Drs. Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone of Cornell University (2000) : 
- The Forgotten Pollinators by Drs. Stephen L. Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan is a classic work describing the pollinator crisis. In the vein of Rachel Carson, their opening chapter, "Silent Spring and Fruitless Falls" describes the risk in a nutshell. They go on to illustrate the problem and propose some solutions.
- Pollination, the Forgotten Agricultural Input, Dr. Malcolm Sanford of the University of Florida, published in Proceedings of the Florida Agricultural Conference and Trade Show, Lakeland, FL, September 29–30, 1998, J. Ferguson, et al. eds., pp. 45–47. 
- Biological Diversity: Pollinators Science in Africa, Issue 2, Sun Jul 30 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization position paper on the subject of pollinator decline: 
- The International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable use of Pollinators: A proposal for a plan of action Convention on biological diversity, Montreal, 12–16 November 2001, 
- Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Program 2006 (North America) 
- POLLINATOR BIODIVERSITY A CO-ORDINATED GLOBAL APPROACH, Eardley, C. 2001. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 561:331-332(FAO) VIII International Symposium on Pollination; Pollination: Integrator of Crops and Native Plant Systems 
- The Economic Impacts of Pollinator Declines: An Approach to Assessing the Consequences, Peter G. Kevan and Truman P. Phillips, Conservation Ecology v.5, i.1 June 2001 
- Brazilian Pollinators Initiative, Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca; Braulio Ferreira Souza Dias  accessed March 2004 THE SAO PAULO DECLARATION ON POLLINATORS 
- The Pollination Home Page  US; accessed Jul 2006
- The North America Pollinator Protection Campaign  Coevolution Institute US; accessed Jul 2006
- Pollinator Conservation Handbook Xerces Society 2005, 
- The Bumblebee Conservation Trust  Great Britain; accessed Jul 2006
- The impact of aerial fenitrothion spraying upon the population biology of bumble bees (Bombus Latr.: Hym.) in southwestern New Brunswick. Plowright, R.C., B.A. Pendrel and I.A. McLaren. 1978. Canadian Entomology 110: 1145-1156. - A case study in the loss of pollination for blueberries, caused by gypsy moth spraying, which also killed bumblebees