Conservation // 5 min Read

The Plight of Pollinators

Written by Palmetto Bluff

May 24, 2021

If I asked you to think of native pollinators, you would most likely imagine butterflies lazily meandering from flower to flower, catching the breeze on their gently flapping wings. Or bees busily flitting in your garden, picking up pollen grains as they search for nectar.

But would you have reflected on the clumsy bumbling of beetles or the whiny drone of flies? What about bats screeching silently in the Southwest desert night while searching for cactus flowers or the deep hum of a hummingbird’s wings as it visits coral honeysuckle? I bet these animals were not the first to come to mind, but they share a common role: pollinator.

When we first learn about pollinators, we hear about a single species—the honeybee—as the epitome of pollination. What is often omitted is that honeybees are not native to this continent; they were transported to North America by Europeans in the early 1600s. Our native bees, in contrast, are speciose, with around 4,000 species in the United States. Their hues vary from the typical yellow and black of bumblebees to the iridescent blue, green, or turquoise of sweat bees. And bees are only a small part of the pollinator puzzle!

Sweat Bee
Sweat Bee

An evolutionary appeal of pollinators is their facilitation of plant reproduction. Specific groups of pollinators are attracted to specific groups of plants. You can actually look at characteristics of a flower—such as size, smell, and color—and make educated guesses about what group of animals pollinates it. Beetles, for example, were some of the first pollinators to evolve and were responsible for fertilizing the earliest flowering plants. Beetles are clumsy, have poor vision, and are inept at manipulating delicate flower parts. Flowers that attract beetles, including those of Southern magnolias, are often large and bowl-shaped, making it easier for beetles to find and maneuver within the flower. Flies are attracted to putrid, fetid odors, and many flowers that attract flies, such as the blooms of pawpaw, mimic the smell of rotting meat. Hummingbirds have excellent color vision and are particularly adept at seeing red. Most plants that attract hummingbirds have blooms that are varying shades of this color.

These phenomena are the result of a coevolutionary dance of seduction, where plants produce flowers that exploit specific traits of pollinators. The end result? The plant ensures it continues to lure the pollinator and the pollinator gets a reward. That does not mean this relationship is without its inherent level of trickery. Plant and pollinator rely on each other while simultaneously trying to “outsmart” their coconspirator. The plant wants to give the pollinator the minimum amount of nectar possible in order to ensure fertilization, and the pollinator wants to get the most nectar and pollen possible during every foraging bout, causing evolutionary tension in the relationship between these two actors.

Blazing Star
Blazing Star

Thankfully, this system of manipulation is effective. Our pollinators are responsible for fertilizing 80 percent of the flowering plants in the United States, meaning that the survival of flowering plants is closely tied to the survival of pollinators. And it is not just plants that find pollinators creatures of value. WE cannot survive without them either. As mechanisms of pollen transport, pollinators provide us with an essential economic skill. (Yes, pollinators are essential workers). Bees and butterflies—as well as beetles, wasps, flies, birds, and bats—are responsible for one-third of the food we eat. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide a financial benefit to American farmers at a value of $10 billion each year through their simple, and simultaneously complicated, service of pollination.

Unfortunately, pollinators worldwide are experiencing a multifaceted attack on their survival. A 2016 study in Germany found that aerial insect populations plummeted by 76 percent over the course of roughly three decades. Monarch butterfly populations dropped more than 84 percent between 1996 and today. There is no single cause for these declines. Extreme heat events caused by climate change stress plants, decreasing the amount of nectar they can produce. Conversion of natural ecosystems to monoculture crops and grass lawns have eliminated habitat. Pesticides may be used to target specific insect pests but can result in pollinator bycatch, causing a mass mortality of untargeted species. The intertwining negative effects
of climate change, habitat loss, and pesticide use are wreaking havoc on pollinator populations.

Pollinators desperately need our help. Fortunately, there are many small steps we can take to mitigate these challenges. `

How You Can Help

There are a handful of actions you can take to promote pollinator survival.

Monarch butterflies are well known for their yearly, multigenerational migration from Mexico to Canada and back. You can help researchers understand monarch migratory behavior by documenting your monarch sightings through a citizen science initiative. Learn more at

Donate to organizations that focus on invertebrate conservation, such as the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation ( and Pollinator Partnership (

Avoid using pesticides. If needed, there are several organic-certified options. Read more at

Create a pollinator garden. Choose native plants that bloom successively from spring to fall to ensure there is food for pollinators throughout seasons when they are most active. Larvae may have specific plant requirements that adults do not share, so make sure to include host plants for larvae. Learn more at Find native plant nurseries near you at or check out Spring Island Nursery at

Certify your garden as a pollinator-friendly habitat. Learn more at or

Be an advocate. Spread the word and educate others!

Food & Wine / Fall Recipes From Buffalos

Your Pine-ness Cocktail Recipe Before delving into the ingredients and recipe for Buffalos’ delectable Ricotta Meatballs and Sauce, it is imperative that the chef has an excellent cocktail for cooking. Pairing the sweetness of pineapple with the woody flavo...

Sep 2023
palmetto bluff neighborhoods

Real Estate / Waterfront Neighborhoods in Palmetto Bluff

Coastal Palmetto Bluff Neighborhoods Palmetto Bluff, a private community nestled along the South Carolina coastline, presents a harmonious blend of luxurious living, recreational spaces, and a vibrant atmosphere. The meticulously designed Palmetto Bluff neigh...

Sep 2023
wilson landing

Waterways / Behind the Bluff with Marina Captain: Thomas Shanahan

Meet Captain Tom of Palmetto Bluff’s Wilson Landing  In the tranquil embrace of Bluffton's Lowcountry, where rivers wind their way through nature's masterpiece, an extraordinary tale unfolds at Wilson Landing of Palmetto Bluff. The story belongs to Captain Th...

Sep 2023
luxury kitchen design

Architecture & Design / Designing the Southern Kitchen of Your Dreams

Your Guide to a Luxury Kitchen Design The kitchen has long been the heart of the home, where cherished memories are cooked up and shared. When it comes to Lowcountry living, a well-designed kitchen is not just a place to prepare meals but a space that encapsu...

Sep 2023
summer bucket list

Culture / Summer Activities to Check Off Your List Before the Fall

10 Activities You Have to Cross Off Your Summer Bucket List While the days are long and the sun hangs high in the sky, summer offers a golden opportunity to create lasting memories and partake in a variety of thrilling activities. Before the cooler breeze of ...

Sep 2023

Conservation / Water Way

Palmetto Bluff is an ecological wonderland, with its maritime forest and tidal rivers, its salt marsh and abundant wildlife. But perhaps one of the most unique features of this wedge of Lowcountry is the impressive inland waterway that wends through the landsc...

Aug 2023

Artist in Residence / Places Around Palmetto Bluff to Paint Plein Air

Plein Air Painting and Our August Artist in Residence Palmetto Bluff is a paradise for art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike with its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and serene atmosphere. With that being said, the Bluff is the perfect canvas f...

Aug 2023
coastal living

Waterways / Experience Health and Happiness By Living on the Coast

5 Health Benefits of Coastal Living Did you know that life by the coast is not only the most idyllic way to live, but it also improves your health? All in all, coastal living is a rejuvenating experience for the mind, body, and soul. From the cool, salty bree...

Aug 2023
south carolina lowcountry

Culture / 9 Enticing Facts About the Lowcountry

Discover the Charm of the South Carolina Lowcountry Where history and nature intertwine with effortless grace, the South Carolina Lowcountry is a region that allures visitors and residents alike with its timeless beauty, enchanting landscapes, and diverse cul...

Aug 2023

Conservation / Behind the Bluff with Palmetto Bluff Conservancy Educator: Aaron Palmieri

Aaron’s Journey to the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy   In the heart of the Lowcountry, where lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems flourish, lies a hidden gem known as Palmetto Bluff. This breathtaking sanctuary serves as a haven for an array of wildlife, offer...

Aug 2023
Community Villages
Palmetto Bluff Club
On The Water
The Arts Initiative
About Us