PJ Liesch, UW-Extension entomologist
Department of Entomology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Science
3: 11 – Total time
0:13 – What are pollinators
0:43 – Why are they important
1:07 – How so landscapes affect pollinators
1:53 – How to identify pollinators
2:13 – Are pollinators in decline
2:40 – Can declines be reversed
3:00 – Lead out
Lorre Kolb: Pollinators in Wisconsin. We’re visiting today with PJ Liesch, Extension entomologist, Insect Diagnostic Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb. PJ, what are pollinators?
PJ Liesch: So a pollinator is really any creature that is going to a flower, picking up a little bit of pollen and moving it around. When it comes to insects that are pollinators we have a very, very wide range of species that can serve in a role in pollination. This can be things like bees, and that’s often what we think of, and a lot of bees are great pollinators, but really any insect going to a flower can do a little bit of pollination. We have moths, butterflies, beetles, flies and so on that can be pollinators as well.
Lorre Kolb: And why are they important?
PJ Liesch: When you think about their importance for agriculture, I mean if all the pollinators disappeared overnight, the grocery store would be a very different place for us, especially the produce section because a lot of our fruits and vegetables rely on insect pollinators. If you think about agriculture in Wisconsin, we’re very well known for crops like cranberries and that’s a good example of a crop where we rely very heavily on insect pollinators.
Lorre Kolb: How do landscapes affect pollinators?
PJ Liesch: Well we know in general if you have more diversity in the landscape, that tends to provide better habitat for pollinators because each of the pollinators species has slightly different habits as far as where they like to live, what plants they like to visit to get pollen, nectar and so on. And so if you have a pure monoculture of say nothing but corn or wheat or whatever crop it is and very low diversity in the landscape, we tend to see fewer pollinator and other insect species. But if you were in a very diverse landscape, maybe a farm field surrounded by woods and wildflowers and a mixture of crops, we have a lot more food sources and you tend to see a greater diversity of insect and pollinators in those types of situations.
Lorre Kolb: And is there a way that people can identify pollinators?
PJ Liesch: There’s a number of good websites out there, both through various universities, I have come up with the Wisconsin Bee Identification Guide that talks about a diversity of our native bees in Wisconsin because we actually have about four to five hundred species of bees in the state alone.
Lorre Kolb: Are pollinators in decline?
PJ Liesch: We do have some evidence that pollinators in general may be in decline and it depends again on the individual species; many of these may be facing decline for a number of reasons, land use changes and habitat fragmentation, pesticide use may be playing a role, diseases that get moved around that can affect the insects might be playing roles as real. And there’s really a number of these factors that are probably interacting puzzle pieces.
Lorre Kolb: Can we reverse these declines?
PJ Liesch: I think there’s certainly a lot of possibilities there. Things like planting a diversity of flowers in your yard can help out and that’s probably the simplest thing you can do. Trying not to use pesticides in your own backyard, if we think about our own lawns – dandelions and clover, we might think of them as weeds, but to an insect that may be a source of pollen and nectar.
Lorre Kolb: We’ve been visiting today with PJ Liesch, Extension entomologist, Insect Diagnostic Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb.