I have often wondered if I would have enjoyed being an entomologist! Even saying that amazes me, but as I’ve aged, I am constantly amazed by the role insects play in our lives. If you don’t know, an entomologist is a scientist that studies insects. Often during the summer months, my posts focus on that of the monarch butterfly, a species that I have been involved with conserving since 2002.
National Pollinator Week is June 22nd – June 28th, this year. My plans to celebrate and educate had to change under the cloud of the pandemic, just like my plans for Earth Day had to be revised. As an Environmental Educator, you can imagine that a large part of my mission is to share information on the importance of pollinators. I was scheduled to do that today at a large nature reserve in rural Wisconsin. I am sad that I will not have this opportunity to share my knowledge and passion for the environment.
However, there are still ways I can celebrate our pollinators! Yesterday, my husband and I went on a brief (one hour) hike to the Holland Sand Prairie. It was refreshing and fun! I even got to share some of my knowledge with my husband.
As far as plans for pollinator week itself, we registered for the Monarch Joint Venture’s Miles for Monarch’s which is a walking challenge that is in honor of how far Monarch Butterflies can travel. Unfortunately, there are registration fees for this event, so it might not be appropriate for everyone to participate. As far as our participation, I am viewing the registration fees as a donation to an organization that helps me to educate my own community on Monarchs by offering professional handouts and literature. For me, it is both a way to celebrate a species I love, have worked to sustain, and continue to offer community education!
Speaking of education, I have been working on some curricular pieces as well that I plan to make available during pollinator week for the first time. The first is a self-study unit, handy for this time of year when school-aged children can learn more about nature through their own curiosity. I am excited to be able to publish this unit on the life cycle of a specific insect!
There are some other insects that have fascinated me over the years. Last year, I remember defending aphids to those who wanted to terminate this tiny “pest” because they were being found on milkweed plants all over the U.S. What some fail to realize is that there are whole communities of insects that live in and around the Asclepias species and they are there for specific reasons, just like the monarch larva.
Mason bees, and other types of solitary bees, have been another species of interest for me. In my last years of offering a garden club at local elementary schools, I learned of the importance of solitary bees for our food/fruit production. Honey bees are not nearly as effective (they are also not native) pollinators as the general public believes. As a backyard (or front yard, in our case) orchardist, it was helpful to learn more about the bees we really want to attract to our fruit trees for pollination!
And, lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis). This Bumble Bee was added to the Endangered Species List in 2017. Like the Monarch, a large reason for the decline of the Rusty Patched Bumble is the decline of their native habitat (grasslands and open tall-grass prairies). Bumblebees are critical pollinators for some of our most popular and nutritious food crops. I will be adding information on the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee to my community education efforts in the future. In the meantime, here is a link to the US Fish and Wildlife information sheet on this newly endangered species, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
Yes! I have plans for National Pollinator Week! What plans do you have?