How Did National Pollinator Week Begin?
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the health of pollinators, in 2007 the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” to highlight the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations.
Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration, promoting the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies.
While it's great to celebrate all the wonderful things pollinators can do for us and the ecosystem, we'd like to take a moment to take a closer look at the underlying issues surrounding the serious decline of pollinator populations and propose ways each of us can make a difference.
The wild sweet potato bee (Cemolobus ipomoeae) was once most common in Illinois,yet has not been collected here since 2001 and before that had not been regularly collected in the state since the late 1970s. Many of the counties in which it was once prevalent are now expanding towns or agricultural areas. With its habitat continuing to be lost to development, this unique and once ubiquitous insect is now rarely seen. (Photo credit: Keng-Lou James Hung)
In 2017, The Center for Biological Diversity published a systematic review of the status of all 4,337 North American and Hawaiian native bees. This incredibly comprehensive review revealed that:
Read the full study.
Many of us are already aware of the decline in monarch butterfly populations, but when you put numbers to it, it's a staggering 90% decline in the last 20 years.
The Problem is Bigger Than Bees
According to the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to promoting the health of pollinators, more than 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals. Most (more than 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, and moths, in addition to bees.
Birds are vanishing too. In 2019, Science journal published the first-ever comprehensive study of net population changes in birds in the U.S. and Canada. The bottom line - nearly 3 billion birds gone since 1970. Read the full study.
According to the Illinois Natural History Survey, of Illinois’ eight threatened and endangered mammal species, six are bats. While bats in Illinois are not known to be pollinators, bats in warmer climates do play an important role in pollination.
Nevertheless, bats face a myriad of challenges in Illinois, such as white-nose syndrome (a fungal disease which disturbs the bat's hibernation causing eventual starvation) and habitat loss. Consequently, some bat populations in the state have declined drastically in the last decade, making conservation and management efforts essential.
Learn more about the endangered and threatened species in Illinois.
In early June, the corporate team from Pembina and Aux Sable joined us, along with Forest Preserve staff, to plant a variety of pollinator-pro native plants like wild bergamot, foxglove, wild geranium, purple giant hyssop, early sunflower, and rosinweed around the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center's campus. Not only will these blooms provide more habitat and floral resources, but they will also help teach pollinator education and provide for some amazing views in the coming years.
What You Can Do!
Let's be honest. The news coming out of the scientific community about pollinators isn't great. There's work to be done and changes to make if we want to live on this planet in harmony. Here's a few suggestions and ideas for you to incorporate.
Make Room for Pollinators
Habitat loss is one of the leading causes of pollinator decline. Adding natural habitat works and even small spaces can make a difference. If you build it properly, they will come!
If you'd like to add native plants to your garden, The Nature Foundation of Will County can help! Come out to our Pollinator Pop-Up Native Plant Sale at Pollinator Party, this weekend on Saturday, June 24 from 11am to 3pm at the Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville or check out our Summer Blooms Online Native Plant Sale going on now.
Reduce or Eliminate the Impact of Pesticides
Along with habitat loss, the ubiquitous use of pesticides has a significant impact on pollinator populations. Check out the Pesticides Learning Center on the Pollinator Partnership website to learn more about the interactions between pollinators and pesticides. Visit The Xerces Society for information on rethinking pesticide use in your yard and garden.
Support Pollinator Conservation in Your Local Parks and Forest Preserves
Natural areas like those in our local Will County forest preserves provide protected spaces for our flora and fauna. In many cases, these protected natural areas are the only remaining habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
Your support comes in many forms.
You can become a donor and take an active role in supporting programs, projects and initiatives that improve the quality and biodiversity of the natural areas in our Will County forest preserves while at the same time support the work of the volunteers that make it happen!
You can volunteer at many of the Forest Preserve's volunteer habitat management events and help restore our natural areas so pollinators can thrive.
You can support our native plant sales and other fundraising events like our Summer Blooms Gathering and Summer Blooms Online Raffle and help us raise funds to support the work of volunteers as well as restoration projects in our forest preserves.
This beautiful Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly is sipping nectar from an ironweed plant. Ironweed is a host plant for the American Painted Lady butterfly and is listed by the Xerces Society as having special value to native bees. Swallowtail butterflies also enjoy milkweed and Joe Pye weed. Shop our online Summer Blooms sale and order your pollinator-pro plants today!
If you've lived on this planet for a good amount of time and have observed nature over the years and decades, you know things have changed.
Benjamin Vogt, author, wild garden designer and advocate for sustainable urban design for wildlife, brings this point home. According to him, there are 50% fewer birds than 40 years ago.
Kids today will see 35% fewer butterflies and moths than their parents did 40 years ago, and 28% fewer birds, mammals, amphibians, and fish.
Less than 3% of the original tallgrass prairie remains, making it more threatened than the Amazon and Indonesian rainforests combined. 70% of all U.S. grasslands may be gone by 2100.
By 2050 over 70% of Americans will live in urban areas, places with greatly diminished green space.
It really is time to make a difference and there are so many ways you can pollinators and other wildlife! For more even more information and resources on helping pollinators, check out these websites:
National Wildlife Federation: 10 Ways to Save Pollinators
The Xerces Society: Bring Back the Pollinators Campaign
Heather Holm: Free Pollinator Plant Lists, Fact Sheets and Posters
US Fish & Wildlife Service: How You Can Help Pollinators
Save Our Monarchs!
The Nature Foundation of Will County
17540 W. Laraway Rd.
Joliet, IL 60433
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