By Phyllis Stiles, Executive Director of Bee City USA
Realizing that perhaps as few as 1% of monarch eggs will ever reach adulthood, monarch advocates from the eastern side of the Rockies to the east coast scan their milkweed for eggs as monarch butterflies fly up from Mexico toward Canada in the spring.
The journey is carefully plotted on the Journey North map, thanks to hundreds of citizen scientists who report the first adult monarch, egg, larva, and milkweed seen each year, all along the monarchs’ route. While it only takes one generation to fly from Canada to Mexico, it takes four-five generations before monarchs return to overwinter in Mexico’s high Oyamel Fir forest sanctuaries.
Monarch enthusiasts try to collect the eggs before they become caterpillars which are vulnerable to tachinid flies and other parasitoids. Often referred to as the “monarchy,” these crazy cat (short for caterpillar) people are sometimes forced to sneak around at night in search of fresh milkweed leaves for their ravenous babies. Kitchen counters become changing stations for critter cages filling up with monarch frass (a technical term for poop).
Bee City USA® board member and environmental educator, Kim Bailey, has been a crazy cat lady for many years. Kim first visited the monarch overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico in 2002 and has since co-led several trips. Her butterfly garden was the first in Georgia to be certified as a Monarch Waystation in 2005. Today, there are over 15,000 habitats certified. Kim is a new milkweed seed supplier for Sow True Seed, raising multiple species of milkweed at her Milkweed Meadows Farm in Fruitland, NC.
This year she reared more than 200 monarchs to give away as chrysalides to teachers and her fellow beekeepers. Kim says, “There’s no better way to recruit more people to the monarchy than to have them personally experience the chrysalis’ transformation to a butterfly. It is absolutely miraculous, especially watching the two parts of their tongue (proboscis) zip together!”
(Convenient bug tents are available from Bugdorm.com.)
At Monday night’s beekeeping meeting, Kim gave away more than 20 to-go cups with two chrysalides inside, resting on a cotton ball, for adoptive parents to take home. They will carefully suspend the chrysalides in a large jar or critter cage with ventilation, then watch and wait for their transformation. A color change signals when the time is near.
Once emerged, the butterflies’ wings need to dry for about four hours before they can attempt flight. They may be then released to continue their role in sustaining their species and the great monarch migration.
Want to learn more about efforts to conserve North American monarchs? Visit the Monarch Joint Venture website.
Last night, Asheville's WLOS News 13 aired a special story about what the recent listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered actually means. According to US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist Bryan Tompkins, the rusty patched bumble bee used to be fairly common in the Southern Appalachians but has not been seen since around 2001.
Both bumble and honey bees are social bees that live as colonies. Unlike honey bees, which nest in above ground cavities, bumble bees generally nest in the ground.
Today, "Current" records cover only about 0.1% of of the rusty patched bumble bee's historical range with the core of those "Current" records being in the upper midwest. This link provides additional information regarding the Current and Historic records for this endangered bee. Tompkins is southeast region lead for the US Fish and Wildlife Service's work on the rusty patched bumble bee, especially work to determine if any populations remain in the southeast. This summer, he will be recruiting citizen scientists to help in that search which will contribute the the species' Recovery Plan.
Pollinator advocates like Bee City USA and the Xerces Society hope the first listing of a bee species in the continental United States will bring attention to all native bees, but especially bumble bees. There are about 250 species of bumble bees in the world, 47 of which are native to North America. According to the Xerces Society, a leader in bumble bee conservation, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk. They are threatened by "habitat loss, disease, pesticide use, and climate change. Unlike honeybees which have large (>10,000 individuals) perennial hives, bumble bees produce smaller annual colonies (50-1,500 individuals). Due to their smaller annual population sizes, life cycle, and genetic makeup, they are uniquely susceptible to extinction."
WLOS News 13 reporter Tanja Rekhi and cameraman Jordan Powell spent the day interviewing Asheville GreenWorks environmental educator Christine Brown at Glen Arden Elementary School where they had recently planted a pollinator garden with Eco-Readers Club students; at a private residence with Annie and Jeff Menzer, owners of Natural Gardeners landscaping company; at Pat Sommers's Natural Selections nursery; and at UNC Asheville's bee hotel with environmental specialist Jackie Hamstead. UNC Asheville is a certified Bee Campus USA affiliate and Asheville became the first Bee City USA affiliate in 2012.
To learn more about the rusty patched bumble bee, watch the 19-minute documentary A Ghost in the Making produced by Neil Losin, Nate Dappen and Clay Bolt.
Little Steps Add Up
by Janiece Meek
So often, we associate making a difference in the world with actions that are as dramatic as sunrises or as fireworks displayed across a dark July sky. But, Jennifer Maves’ quiet, patient approach of taking little steps toward big changes is both approachable and exceedingly powerful.
Jennifer’s journey leading to the establishment of her plant-based skin care line consisted of taking one step after the other in the direction of her deepening interest in botanicals. A Midwest transplant, Jennifer came to the Asheville area in 2008 to create a healthier, sustainable lifestyle. Her early interest in herbal medicine grew into an all-out passion for botanicals, holistic medicine and aromatherapy, and in 2013, ZenJenSkin was born. Crafting infused oils and tinctures ignited her curiosity, leading her toward the use of active ingredients which calm itching skin, deter biting insects, and repair aging skin.
On her half-acre urban farm, Jennifer keeps a medicinal garden from which she plucks yarrow, catnip and nettles to create small batches, and thinks we have come to take for granted some of nature’s most powerful ingredients. Honey, for example, has potent antibacterial properties, and for this reason, is an ingredient in her facial masque formula which aids in the treatment of acne. Honey, for example, has potent antibacterial properties, it is highly nutritional and deeply moisturizing, and for this reason, it is a main ingredient in her Crepey Skin Repair and homemade masks.
It’s easy to connect the dots between Jennifer’s passion for the plant world, the essential relationship between bees and botanicals, and her support of Bee City USA. But beyond that, she feels strongly that people should know and appreciate the critical role of bees as pollinators. “Seventy-five percent of the world’s crops depend on the work of pollination done by bees. That’s how important they are.”
But, Jennifer is not standing on the sidelines wringing her hands. She is engaged with helping pollinators in a way that is both meaningful and manageable at this point in her life. And so, she is optimistic that we won’t have to reach a point where we’ve lost the bees. “Often, people create things out of anger and fear. You don’t need to do that. Create things out of love, because it goes so much further.”
That’s where community-minded philanthropy enters, “You should support what you believe in, and you don’t have to reach the whole world. I like to keep it in the community.”
She’s a member of the Buncombe County [NC] Bee Club, and aspires to keep bees perhaps next year, but realizes not everyone is inclined or able to do this. This is yet one more opportunity to think in terms of taking small steps to have an impact. For example, “If you care about nature and bees, you can volunteer your time or give automatic monthly support to an organization like Bee City USA.” She also offers that simple acts such as using bee-attracting plants and bee-friendly water sources in your landscape, together with avoiding the use of pesticides, will have an impact. “That’s where little changes, little steps all add up.”
Jennifer gets it. What she’s describing is the collective mind of the hive, with all of us working in unison, each in our own way, to do valuable work. And that is a very optimistic proposition.
Bee City USA founder and executive director, Phyllis Stiles, is very honored to speak at the Smithsonian's first Earth Optimism Summit this Saturday, April 22.
On Friday and Saturday, there will concurrent "Deep Dive" sessions organized by themes. Stiles will introduce the Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs during the "At Home With Conservation: Backyards, back lots, school yards, and shore fronts" session from 3:45 to 5:00 Saturday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Other presenters for this session are Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home; Teddy Ammon, Teens Dream co-creator; Jeff Holland, Riverkeeper for the West and Rhodes Rivers; and Joanna Ogburn, expert in building multi-stakeholder collaboration. Research scientist for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Gary Krupnick, will moderate the session.
Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media. To purchase tickets, click here. On Sunday, programs are open and free to the public.
Just as I drove in my driveway yesterday, I noticed a monarch butterfly where we planted milkweed several years ago. She flew away just as I approached. Holding my breath, I inched toward the tender milkweed plant, with its four newly emerged leaves and lifted a leaf. There was her egg! It may sound corny, but it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.
I am fairly new to monarch conservation having only gotten involved with pollinators when my husband became a beekeeper in 2008 which led me to found Bee City USA in 2012. But across the United States, for many years devoted citizen scientists have marked spring by noting when they see their first monarch and their first monarch egg on the Journey North site. Their records have led to new discoveries about the monarch migration.
Recently, the Monarch Joint Venture (MJV) named Bee City USA a "partner," a proud moment for us. The Monarch Joint Venture is a partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental agencies, and academic programs working together to protect monarchs and their migration. Partners are experts in the fields of monarch conservation and education and are working to make colossal progress toward MJV's ultimate goal of monarch conservation in the U.S. in cooperation with conservationists in Canada and Mexico. You can read about the North American Monarch Conservation Plan here.
Bee City USA and its sister program, Bee Campus USA, represent growing national networks of communities and academic institutions across America committed to pollinator conservation. That conservation starts with awareness, then education, and finally enhanced habitat for pollinators, rich in a diversity of locally native plants that are free of harmful pesticides.
Milkweed is baby food for monarch caterpillars, but when they become adult butterflies, they don't eat milkweed leaves anymore. Indeed, their new mouthparts couldn't chew a leaf if they wanted to! As you watch a newborn monarch butterfly emerging from their bejeweled chrysalis, you will witness their straw-like proboscis roll out in two parts and magically join together--zipperlike--never to separate again. Their "tongue" is uniquely designed for carefully plunging into flower nectaries to supply the carbohydrates necessary for flight.
Bee City USA urges everyone to plant locally native milkweed in their yard, and if you don't have a yard, join forces with community organizations to plant milkweed. The monarchs will find it! The bonus is that milkweed provides plentiful nectar for a wide variety of pollinators, including most species of bees.
I dream of a day when once again children can look up to see migrating monarchs blacken out the sun.
Phyllis Stiles is founder and director of Bee City USA. Learn more about Bee City USA here.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Pollinator Awareness Month: "Animal pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants and one third of human food crops. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, birds, and bats. Each of us depends on pollinators in a practical way to provide us with the wide range of foods we eat. In addition, pollinators are part of the intricate web that supports the biological diversity in natural ecosystems that helps sustain our quality of life. Abundant and healthy populations of pollinators can improve fruit set and quality, and increase fruit size. In farming situations this increases production per acre. In the wild, biodiversity increases and wildlife food sources increase.
The Plant Materials Program is working to select plants and provide recommendations on plants which will enhance pollinator populations throughout the growing season. These wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses are an integral part of the conservation practices that landowners, farmers and ranchers install as part of their conservation plan." You can find a full list of resources here.
High-quality habitat is not partial to the species that it welcomes; birds, bees, butterflies and more find the resources that they need in pollinator habitat! Without pollinators, our diets would be void of essential nutrients that we require. “Bee City USA will be a great addition to the Monarch Joint Venture partnership;” says Wendy Caldwell, MJV Coordinator, “their ability to foster community partnerships around pollinators will help unify our efforts across the nation.”
Bee City USA embraces MJV’s collaborative approach by encouraging individual and community action and facilitating creative, constructive community partnerships. Collaboration, both national and local, is their mantra. Bee City USA’s national network of cities and academic institutions partnering for pollinator conservation is a strong foundation in which monarch conservation efforts can be integrated.
“Monarchs and honey bees are ‘gateway species’ for pollinator conservation, capturing the imagination and inspiring broad interest in pollinator conservation generally. Even though the bee genera have more impact on food security, individuals and institutions are sometimes afraid of inviting stinging bees into their landscapes, while they welcome butterflies. The reality is that monarch habitat supports almost all pollinators—including diverse native bee species, and offers ongoing educational opportunities, “ says Bee City USA Executive Director Phyllis Stiles. “Bee City USA embraces MJV’s collaborative approach. We are excited to invite our national network of cities and academic institutions to join forces with Monarch Joint Venture on local and national projects to educate communities on how to sustain monarch butterflies throughout their life cycle by providing them with locally native milkweed plants and other nectar-rich plants for their adult stage.”
Recognizing that pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of 90% of the world's wild plant species and for one in three bites of the food we consume, Bee City USA galvanizes communities and educational campuses to sustain all pollinators (including monarchs), by creating healthy habitat containing a variety of native plants and reducing pesticide use. Bee City USA’s mission is to build Americans’ capacity to share their built environments with pollinators and other wildlife by simulating native landscapes as much as possible.
Bee City USA launched in Asheville, North Carolina, in June 2012 and now has certified affiliates in 26 states with many more in the process of building their coalitions. As of April 2017, 44 cities (including Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.) have been certified as Bee City USA affiliates. In April 2015, they launched a companion program, Bee Campus USA, for educational institutions and already have certified 22 institutions of higher education. Lists of current affiliates with maps for each program are on the beecityusa.org website.
To participate, cities, counties and campuses must formally apply for Bee City USA certification. Cities or counties must also have their highest elected body adopt a resolution that outlines their commitments. Central to those commitments is deputizing a standing committee to serve as the voice of the pollinators in landscaping and pest management decisions going forward. Through public/private partnerships, once a community or academic institution becomes “PC” (pollinator conscious), not only do they host educational events and post signage about pollinator habitat, they also choose many more locally native plants for public landscapes and encourage their citizenry to do the same. Likewise, they begin practicing integrated pest management and educate their community to do so as well. They also are encouraged to support local native nurseries that supply pesticide-free, locally native plant species.
For more information on Bee City USA’s goals, projects and resources, visit our website.
The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners.
Darby Communications, a boutique public relations agency specializing in the outdoor, fitness and wellness industries, has announced the selections for the 2017 Stand Up Initiative. Launched in February, the program supports select environmentally-focused non-profit organizations with pro bono PR-related services. With the goal of helping to protect and preserve the environment and public lands, Darby Communications chose four organizations making significant positive impacts on the environment, they include: American Alpine Club, Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, The Collider and Bee City USA.
To kick off the program, Darby Communications will work with the American Alpine Club (AAC), a non-profit that focuses on advocacy and leadership to support the climbing community and promote conservation. Together the organizations will work towards educating the climbing community about the importance of public lands and heighten awareness around the policy work the AAC is doing to preserve our natural spaces. “We believe that as climbers, we bear the important responsibility of protecting the places we climb and sustaining the climbing community,” says AAC Policy Director Maria Povec. “We are thrilled to have the support of Darby Communications to share our message and encourage climbers to stand up for the wild places we all enjoy.”
The second beneficiary is the Grand Staircase-Escalante Partners, a non-profit committed to preserving and protecting the 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument for the use and enjoyment of future generations. Darby Communications will proudly support their campaign to raise awareness about the monument and the importance of protecting it against threats being made to Utah’s public lands.
The final two recipients of the 2017 Stand Up Initiative, Bee City USA and The Collider, are based in Darby Communications’ hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Bee City USA endorses a set of commitments for creating sustainable habitats for pollinators which are vital to feeding the planet. Through the Initiative, they seek to share their mission to sustain pollinators by providing them with a healthy habitat. Kicking off the first quarter of 2018, Darby will assist The Collider, an innovation center that exists to bring together diverse expertise and stimulate a new industry of climate products and services globally. The focus of the pro bono services will be to assist The Collider with awareness around ClimateCon 2018, their inaugural conference on the business of climate.
To learn more about the Stand Up Initiative, please visit darbycommunications.com/standup or contact Megan Torgerson at email@example.com.
About Darby Communications
A public relations firm dedicated to meeting and surpassing the needs of their clientele with customized PR and promotional programs, Darby Communications works with many of the outdoor industry’s most respected companies. The firm’s clients include Astral, Aventura, Ecōths, Feetures!, Granite Gear, Headsweats, Hyland’s, Industrial Revolution, Sierra Designs and Tailwind Nutrition. For more information, visit darbycommunications.com and on Instagram.
What fun to see mason bees and honey bees on the crabapple tree yesterday! When the trees start budding and tiny plants push their first leaves out of the ground, gardeners are itching to grab their shovels. Each Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliate is committed to developing a local recommended species list of native plants, and they are encouraged to identify local nurseries who propagate those plants free of harmful pesticides.
Asheville, North Carolina's recommended species list is presented as an example as the first item on the Bee City USA Resources page. The last column tells you which nurseries carry each plant, and the nurseries are provided on the last page of the list.
Jean Harrison of Red Root Natives, a small nursery near Asheville, recently contacted us to let us know what they offer this year. This is a good time to check in with local native nurseries like Red Root Natives and to promote them through social media, garden clubs, neighborhood listservs....
Because plants and pollinators co-evolved over millions of years, our native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and flower flies are counting on these native plants for their very survival and vice versa. (Our honey bee friends aren't very picky and love the native flowers as much as herbs from Europe!) Indeed, 90% of wild plant species depend on pollinators for their reproduction.
The monarchs are making their way north from Mexico and California right now, so don't forget to include local milkweed species in your gardens for hungry monarch butterfly caterpillars as well as nectar for all kinds of pollinators.
Happy gardening and pollinator watching!
The Farmers' Market will be abuzz on April 29 as Gillette celebrates Pollinator Day! Among the sixteen seminars, you can choose Bee Hotels, Cooking With Honey, Flowers for Pollinators in Landscapes, Insects in the Garden, Native Bees for Wyoming, and What's the Bug? The keynote speaker is Benjamin Vogt, a well-known writer about gardening. He will make two presentations: Designing Urban Prairie Gardens, and Native Plants that Support Native Pollinators. Read all about it here.
Gillette was certified as a Bee City USA affiliate on April 18, 2016. Each affiliate commits to hosting at least one pollinator awareness event each year.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA director and board.