What are Pollinators?

Pollinators are any animal that moves pollen, allowing plants to make seeds and fruit

The main pollinators in our ecosystems are native bees, flies, butterflies, wasps, birds, and beetles.


In Canadian agriculture, the main pollinators are managed honey bees and native bees.

Importance of Pollinators

They are essential in ecosystems

Pollinators are needed in ecosystems so that plants can make seeds and fruit. About 90% of plants need or benefit from pollinators. The plant material, seeds and fruit that pollinators make are used by wildlife.

Our food needs pollinators

About 70% of crops require or benefit from pollinators. Without them, we would lose about 1/3 of our food. Many foods that are pollinator-dependent also are the ones that provide us with most of our nutrition. Blueberries, squash, peppers, apples, salads, carrots, and almonds are just a few of the foods that need pollinators.

They connect us

Pollinators connect us all; humans, other animals, plants, and the earth. Coming together we can preserve pollinators and their ecosystems for future generations.

Pollinators are in trouble

Managed honey bee health problems

Honey bees are not native to North America or a natural part of our ecosystems. But they are very important for crop production. And they give us hive products such as honey. Honey bee colonies are not declining, but they are a lot harder to keep healthy than they were in the past. This mainly is a result of poor nutrition and lack of floral resources, pests and dieases such as the Varroa mite, and exposure to pesticides.

Native pollinators are declining

Our native pollinators such as native bees (850 species in Canada!), butterflies and others are facing serious threats, and some species are declining or extinct. The main reasons are loss of habitat including flowers, pesticide exposure, and pests and diseases.

Synergy of threats

These three main factors, in addition to climate change and management problems, are impacting both managed and native pollinators

You can help!

Plant for pollinators

The main thing both the public and land managers can do is to preserve and create habitat for pollinators. Research shows both large and small habitat creation benefits pollinators.

Break the synergy

Most of us cannot do much about agricultural pesticide use or pollinator diseases. BUT, by building habitat and providing safe and nutritious forage for pollinators, they can better withstand other threats.

Actions you can take

  • Plant native and non-invasive garden plants that help pollinators.
  • Reduce or elimate use of pesticides.
  • Choose foods that come from organic or low pesticide-use farms (local food is best!).
  • Educate others about pollinators.

Photo credits: Butterfly, green sweat bee, sidewalk planting, Kristen Miskelly