It’s said that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammal pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of our food. Pollinating flowers is a serious job. For this reason, the Pollinator Partnership organization created an event called Pollinator Week, every year around the third week of June.
In 2019, it’s June 17– 23. The blog post for this year is Creating Lawn Habitat for Endangered Bumblebees, which includes two citizen-science initiatives that you can contribute to by sending in your bumblebee sightings.
In 2017 (the year of this post), it’s June 19-25.
It’s very important to give honeybees and native insect pollinators as much habitat and food as we possibly can, because of Colony Collapse Disorder. In absence of remedies to prevent this disease from killing the honey bees that pollinate our non-native food crops, only natural resistance, the kind where survivors (in particular, survivor queens) go on to create new hives, will improve the survival rates of beehives. In addition, honey bees are very competitive with native pollinator species, so we need to make sure that the natives get a fair crack at food sources – specifically native plants, which honey bees are less adept at pollinating.
So, to inspire people to do something to appreciate or even help our pollinators, I found a few links to share. Nature herself also motivated me: the cover photo for this post came from my recent trip to the Adirondacks, where I found a bunch of Eastern Swallowtail butterflies mud-puddling on the beach.
Why do butterflies mud-puddle? Well, it’s an easy way to absorb minerals, sodium in particular, from the solution it makes in water-logged soil. For this reason, other insects also congregate around mud puddles.
- Male butterflies tend to mud-puddle more than females, and you can read more about that curiosity here.
- If pollinators had dating profiles, these would be those. This is an article by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on my favourite publishing platform, Medium. It’s cute and clever and I learned a few species.
- Updated in 2018: there’s also an Irish website, “Don’t Mow, Let it Grow,” dedicated to education about helping pollinator species such as bees. They have an animated cartoon series suitable for children to explain what bees and other pollinating insects do. (Note for little children: it would be helpful for a parent to read the titles on the animation!)
What more can we lawn-owners and gardeners do to help bees and other insect pollinators, such as butterflies?
- Make your Garden a Sanctuary for Bees – this article is an old favourite (2014).
- The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a few handouts with in-depth information on creating food and habitat for pollinators in your garden. (Look for a “Poster and Handout” kind of link in your search there, they have moved the resource in question). This is the page for butterflies. You’ll find a library of information on biodiversity and all the campaigns that the CWF supports. They are my go-to place for information related to wildlife gardening, and for making our towns and cities welcoming to nature again.
I have a puzzle for you:
While I was watching the Eastern Swallowtails (27 of them!) at the beach, I saw a Red Admiral butterfly also mud-puddling. (Here is an Instagram photo (follow me!) of one that was sunning itself in the backyard last week.) Another butterfly also was there, on the beach, and I’m going to give you the photograph below, and turn on the comments for this post.
Q: Can you tell me what butterfly this is?
How can you tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth?
Want to identify other butterflies you’ve seen? Try this handy key!
A gift for pollinators, and newsletter subscribers:
Milkweed is a perennial plant that many insects rely on for food and shelter, such as the now-endangered Monarch butterfly. If you’d like to receive a packet of milkweed seeds, sign up to my list (the newsletter will begin when I attain a certain threshold of subscribers). Reply to your list confirmation email with your address, and I will send you a packet. You can plant them this year or next.