Down to Earth - by Madison Co. Master Gardeners

Master Gardener

Can Butterflies or Pollinators Behave Like Canaries?

Are you puzzled by the title of this article??  Good.  Goal accomplished.
And, yes, butterflies and pollinators CAN be like canaries: especially like the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine.”  If our everyday human existence had us comparing our current environmental state to walking through that proverbial coal mine, we would be wading through the carcasses of a large majority of our 400 native bee species and 90% of our usual Monarch butterfly population from a couple of decades ago.   Butterflies don’t make audible noise, and other insect pollinators make very little, but those crunching carcasses equate to a roaring SOS!  Our natural environment is in trouble.  The “canaries” are speaking, carcass by carcass.
Jessie Lowry (Weeks), Blank Park Zoo, multiple partnering organizations, and multiple Midwestern zoos and their partners are taking the SOS seriously.  So are the 150+ individuals and groups who installed and registered Plant.Grow.Fly. gardens in 2014.  Person by person, the Plant.Grow.Fly. initiative is working to raise public awareness and engage humanity in addressing clear environmental distress.  The P.G.F. campaign is close to home, and compliments a handful of other significant campaigns to help our struggling pollinator species.  Jessie brought this message to Madison County Master Gardeners at their February meeting.
Jessie will be one of two keynote speakers at a free public educational opportunity on Saturday, April 18.  Entomologist Dr. Mary Harris of ISU will speak, as well.  She’ll provide background information about the on-going pollinator population declines as well as insights into how production farmers can join non-farming folks to be part of a solution.  No matter what your background, your age, where you live, or how you make your living, each of us can make positive contributions to help pollinator and butterfly populations rebound.  Jessie emphasized that what pollinators and butterflies need immediately is “gas stations” where they can refuel and reproduce.  The “gas station” can range from a small container garden, to a larger landscape garden interplanted with appropriate host and nectar plants among the usual ornamental species, to an acreage of managed native plant species.
Join us on Saturday, 4/18, from 9-noon at the I-35 school commons to learn how you can provide respite for Iowa pollinators and butterflies.  Visit the P.G.F. website http://www.blankparkzoo.com/en/conservation/plant_grow_fly/overview/, as well.
Wouldn’t it be cool for your county to become a county-wide pollinator and butterfly “gas station”?  After all, the canaries are “speaking!”

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