Pollinators are a necessity, not a nuisance: researcher

William Adamski keeps tens of thousands of bees on the roof of a Halifax shopping mall.

These bees, along with billions of other pollinators, are essential to the plants we rely on for food. In fact, bees, bats, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators produce about $40 billion worth of goods — including textiles and medicine.

“We’ve been looking for a few years now for new ways that we can give back to the environment and focus on sustainability,” says Stephanie Schnare of the Halifax Shopping Centre, where a roof-top hive was installed this spring.

“Bees fit well into that program, and our roof was an under-utilized space. It’s a fantastic habitat for the bees.”

Scientists say bees are among 200,000 species of pollinators world-wide.

“Pollinators are extremely important for a lot of different reasons. On the human side, about a third of the food we eat depends on pollinators,” says Jim Devries, a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited.

Most people don't realize how essential they are — even helping to clean our water and filter the air we breathe.

Experts say the biggest misconception about bees is that they are dangerous, but you're very unlikely to get stung if you leave them be.

“For the most part, if you give them some distance and you're not swatting at them, they'll leave you be because once they leave the hive, they are after one thing, that's food, to bring back to their hives so they can thrive,” says Adamski.

The truth is, humans are more of a threat to the bee population than they are to us. Man-made practices like clearcutting and pesticide use are among the biggest threats to pollinators, along with the destruction of their habitats.

“Increasing urban expanse at the expense of remaining wetlands and other habitats like grasslands, all of those areas are important to pollinators,” says Devries.

Experts say there are simple things most of us can do to support the pollinators like planting wildflowers, letting clover grow in your lawn or fields, avoiding household pesticides and simply learning more about them.