Thursday, June 18, 2015

National Pollinator Week has BEEgun!

National Pollinator Week: June 15 – 21

It’s time to give the much deserved recognition and appreciation to all of the bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, other small beings that act as pollinators for many of the plants in our native ecosystems and agricultural crop fields. “We would be lost without them” may seem like an overstatement, but after a full understanding of the ecosystem services that they provide, it should be clear to see that these natural pollinators are a vital component to the lives of all creatures, and if they did not already exist, it would be necessary to invent them.

Pollinators at work at HNWR, by Nancy Miller
Within the last decade there have been noticeable, and in the case of the Monarch Butterfly – drastic, decreases in the numbers of many species of pollinators. This is an issue that, if not quickly resolved, will lead to a wide array of problems in our natural ecosystems, as well as our very own homes. Fortunately, awareness and solutions for this threat are steadily growing, and (as you will see at the end of this short article) there are simple ways in which you, your friends, and families can help restore our pollinator populations and encourage their continued importance in the lives of all.

Pollinator at work at HNWR, by Dick Malnory
There are over 100,000 different species of pollinators that, through simple and innate interactions with plants, insure the continued production of seeds, fruits, and therefore, each new generation of plants by transferring pollen (male gametes) from plant to plant. In the natural environment, these workers are irreplaceable when it comes to maintaining the delicate flow and balance of energy among organisms and the integrity of the functioning ecosystem as whole. On the agricultural side of things, we know that at least one-third of the world’s food comes from plants pollinated by the long and diverse list of wild pollinators.  If we lack the pollinators to do the work for us we, as humans, would have to try to find a way to mimic the cross-pollination acts ourselves; a service that, when done by the natural pollinators, has been estimated to be worth nearly 200 billion dollars on a global scale.  Can you imagine the collapse that will take place in our natural ecosystems, food security, and economies if we neglect the importance of conserving the world’s pollinators?

Pollinator at work, by Charlotte Ziesmann
In response to the startling decline in the numbers of pollinators - along with several other countries, as well - The United States is taking action! Alongside the millions of dollars and working hours that have been invested to support the research of the population declines and conservation endeavors, there is a national project underway to further support the protection of these special pollinator species. Recently, the White House released the "National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators", proposing that  the 1,500 miles of I-35 roadsides are converted into pollinator friendly areas. Over the next several years, this multi-faceted plan hopes to convert roughly 7 million acres of land into appropriate reserves for pollinators like the Sunflower Bee, Franklin’s Bumblebee, or the Monarch Butterfly – an insect that is struggling to recover after a 90% decrease in total population size. But wait – it gets better!

Backyard wildflower patch, by Sue Malnory

Here is something great that you can do to help – create your own personal pollinator garden! As we continue to develop our natural lands into neighborhoods, shopping centers, and parking lots, our pollinators lose two critical components of their habitats - somewhere to nest and flowers from which they can collect nectar and pollen. If each individual, household, school, business, or neighborhood park, would commit to creating a small garden with native plants, appropriate nesting areas, and absence of pesticides, we can create a sea of small stop-over stations or refuges for the thousands of pollinators that our land is to support. In return for the services that they provide for us, it’s really the least we could do!

For fundamental information on how to create a safe, functioning, and creative garden, please visit the site below:

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is pleased to announce its participation in the Monarch Joint Venture, a national program of the Fish and Wildlife Service, with major partners National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, with the primary goal of restoring monarch butterfly populations on a national scope.   In partnership with AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association, monarch student conservation corps interns will support local conservation of monarch habitat through community outreach and education.

Alex Ocanas, a recent graduate of Austin College (AC), will serve as our local Monarch Intern for the next six months.  Her office is located on the refuge.  Alex exudes enthusiasm for her goal of developing community events to support monarch habitat.  She hopes to support the development of 100 pollinator gardens in Grayson County over the next six months.  Alex is planning numerous outreach and education programs through the refuge, schools, and community park systems.  Please contact her at the refuge if you have an interest in planning a pollinator garden or participating in monarch habitat conservation through community outreach and education.

Thanks to Alex for information provided in this week's blog.

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