Climate Change and Pollinators

Spring has slowly crept up on us; giving us hints and peaks at the good weather to come. Already we can see the first blooms around town and in our gardens. Soon enough wildflowers will be an even more common site and hopefully they will be buzzing with pollinators in no time. Unfortunately, decline in pollinators has been observed around the world and is a multifaceted issue. Climate change hasn’t helped.

Intense storms, longer dry seasons, hotter summers, and warmer winters all have cascading effects on ecosystems. New weather patterns alter bloom timings and the length of the flowering period. This can create a temporal mismatch between flowers and bees. It is also particularly damaging to specialized pollinators that depend on very few species or even just a single species. Stressful conditions can also reduce the quantity and quality of nectar or pollen provided by the plant. For example, elevated carbon dioxide levels decrease the protein concentration in goldenrod. Goldenrod is an important fall food source for wild and managed bees in North America.

Paying closer attention to how we plant pollinator habitat can help to mitigate some of the issues. Making sure there are blooms for every part of the year can help. However there are some effects that will be impossible to mitigate. Warmer winters are linked to lower survival of bee species that overwinter as adults. This is because even a small rise in temperature increases their metabolism. This causes them to come out of winter with far too little stored energy. It can also cause them to come out too early when there is no food available.

Right now much of pollinator habitat is fragmented and scattered. This makes it even harder for pollinators to migrate with the changing climate or to disperse in search of additional food. If you’re wanting to start or increase your own wildflower planting to better support pollinators, don’t forget to check out our wildflower sale!

For more detailed information you can look at the NPS website and Penn State Department of Entomology. These sites provided quality information for this article.