Pollinators in Trouble

Populations of bees and other pollinators are declining around the world. Learn about some of the challenges they are facing and how you can help.
A green plant grows through cement
Concrete and cement limits pollinator habitat

Encyclopedia of Life Photo

Habitat Loss
Pollinators require natural spaces with vegetation and flowering plants in which to live and forage for their food: pollen and nectar.The chief causes for pollinator habitat loss are agriculture, mining and human development:

  • Alternate land uses may not provide overwintering, foraging, and nesting sites for pollinators that have specific habitat needs.
  • Concrete, cement, and metal surfaces replace vegetated areas limit habitat for ground-nesting pollinators and provide scarce opportunities for pollinator foraging.
  • Fragmented habitat may be too small to meet pollinator survival needs.
Purple spotted knapweed plant
Spotted knapweed is an invasive plant

NPS Photo

Non-Native Species

Pollinators require specific plants which provide nutrition and habitat to larval (immature stages) and adults pollinators.Native plants or wildflowers needed by pollinators may be out-competed by non-native species.

  • Non-native plants may attract pollinators away from native species that are more nutritious and better food sources.
  • Non-native species of pollinators may compete with native pollinators for pollen and nectar.
Two people are spaying green vegetation with chemicals.
Some pesticides may remain in the environment and affect multiple generations of pollinators

NPS Photo


Pesticides are tools used to kill pest plants, insects, fungi, other pests. They include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides.
  • Pesticides can adversely affect pollinators directly or some types of pesticides may remain in the environment for an extended time and affect multiple generations of pollinators.
  • Insecticides applied to plant seeds may, when the plant is mature, contaminate pollen grains that are food sources for pollinators.
  • Insecticides that don't directly kill may hamper the ability of pollinators to navigate or forage.
  • Herbicides may kill important forage plants for pollinators.
Three violet colored Frigid Shooting Star flower heads point downward with green leaves in the background
The Frigid Shooting Star is found in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve

NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

Climate Change

  • Flowering plants may occur farther north or at higher elevations as a response to warming temperatures and may become out of sync with their pollinators.
  • The types and distributions of pollinators may change; pollinators adapted to warmer temperatures may expand their northward range, displacing other pollinators.
Close-up photo of a tiny Hive Beetle
The Hive Beetle is a non-native parasite that can damage and affect honey bee colonies.

Encyclopedia of Life Photo

Parasites and Diseases
  • Key parasites and diseases affecting honey bees include Varrora mites, Hive Beetle, and Colony Collapse Disorder.
  • There is more extensive transfer of parasites and diseases due to rapid travel and commerce.
  • Non-native parasites and diseases infect native species.

Last updated: June 18, 2018


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