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August 6, 2014

Tackling the Plight of the Pollinators through WHC Programs

Pollinators are a vital part of the world’s ecosystems. In their search for nectar, species such as butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds, and (in some regions) bats pick up and transfer pollen between flowers, enabling those plants to reproduce.

Unfortunately, the large majority of pollinating species are experiencing drastic population declines, due to factors such as habitat loss and degradation and overuse of pesticides. European honeybees and bumble bees, for example, are dramatically impacted by the indiscriminate use of neonicotonoid insecticides, as observed in events like the massive bumble bee die-off in Oregon last summer.

Waste Management is meeting these challenges to pollinator conservation head-on in its work with the Wildlife Habitat Council. The environmental non-profit certifies 132 WM programs at landfills, transfer stations, and other facilities through its two signature certification frameworks: Wildlife at Work and Corporate Lands for Learning. A large number of these certified programs incorporate pollinator-friendly habitat and pollinator-themed education into their initiatives.

The most common pollinator project—and one of the easiest and most visible for many sites—is the creation of pollinator gardens, or formally-landscaped gardens that incorporate native pollinator-friendly plants. Even small pollinator gardens have been shown to provide benefits to pollinators, since these species are highly mobile and can travel between small patches of habitat. Other WHC-certified WM programs implement projects such as seeding wildflower meadows, native grasslands, berms, and prairies using native pollinator-friendly species, and installing bee nesting areas such as bee blocks and bee poles.

Some of WM’s programs are able to undertake pollinator conservation on a broader scale. For example, employee volunteers at the Kirby Canyon Recycling and Disposal Facility are engaged in the conservation of an endangered butterfly species, the Bay checkerspot butterfly. As part of their program, employees implemented protection of 250 acres of serpentine grasslands where the butterflies live. They also work with partners to reintroduce Bay checkerspot butterfly larvae to nearby suitable habitats, monitor butterfly populations, and survey plant species in the serpentine grasslands.

Large or small, projects that provide habitat for pollinators on working lands are highly valuable contributions to pollinator conservation.

For more information or assistance with implementing pollinator conservation and education projects at your facility, contact WHC.