By Kim Bailey
The 2016-2017 population estimate for monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico was announced on February 9. Because the butterflies are clustered so closely at their overwintering sites, individual monarchs cannot be counted. Instead, the area of forest that is densely coated with butterflies is measured. This winter, the area occupied by the butterfly colonies covers 7.19 acres (2.91 hectares) and contains an estimated 146 million butterflies. This represents a 27% decrease compared to last year’s survey, which is conducted every winter in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve by scientists from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico.
Some good news is this winter’s population estimate is actually higher than had been expected by many. The 2016 season began with catastrophic ice/snow storm that struck the overwintering colonies in March (after the 2015-2016 winter population measurements had been made) just as the migration north was beginning. Low numbers of adult butterflies were subsequently reported in the U.S. during the spring of 2016.
A graph of historic population records (measured in acres) is available at the Journey North website. Overwintering monarchs reached a peak population covering 44.93 acres in the winter of 1996-1997 and show a long-term average of about 15 acres. Though this winter’s estimate is the second largest population measurement reported in the past six seasons, it is still 47% below the long-term average.
Researchers, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and agencies have been collaborating under the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership to identify targets for monarch conservation. By 2020, the primary objective is to increase monarch population numbers to 6 hectares (about 15 acres) of area occupied in Mexico, or approximately 225 million individual butterflies. To reach this goal, habitat restoration is essential. The 2016 Monarch Conservation Implementation Plan calls for the addition of at least 1 to 1.5 billion milkweed stems (needed for monarch reproduction) and the abundant nectar resources to support monarch migration.
While monarch and other pollinator populations have been plummeting, public awareness and interest participating in their recovery has been surging. The groundswell of efforts to plant more milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants across the United States is extremely encouraging. Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA affiliates, along with concerned organizations and individuals, many in cooperation with government agencies, are increasing their efforts to spread awareness of the monarchs' plight. Monarch Watch even offers free milkweed plants appropriate to the locale to nonprofit organizations that commit to large scale habitat restoration. More and more nurseries are making milkweed and other native plants available to home gardeners wanting to do their part to help. Let's not be the last generation to see the great monarch migration!
In addition to becoming a certified Bee City USA or Bee Campus USA affiliate, here are ways you can help:
1) Create a pollinator garden and inform others by registering, certifying and/or posting a pollinator habitat sign.
About the Author
Bee City USA Board Member Kim Bailey recently returned from visiting several monarch sanctuaries in Mexico. Kim first visited the sanctuaries in 2002 and has since co-led several trips to the area. With an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction - Science Education, and environmental educator for over 20 years, Kim has enjoyed a wide range of experiences including teaching middle school life science, leading wilderness adventure trips, conducting ecology outreach programs, directing outdoor education programs, and training teachers and naturalists. She has also volunteered for the National Wildlife Federation Habitat Stewards, Master Gardeners, Georgia Native Plant Society, and Monarchs Across Georgia. After 14 years coordinating a statewide environmental education program for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, she fulfilled her longtime dream of launching Milkweed Meadows Farm in Fruitland, NC. She now enjoys growing milkweed, wildflowers, fruits, and vegetables; producing open-pollinated seeds for Sow True Seed; keeping bees and raising butterflies. Kim also works for the Captain Planet Foundation as their Curriculum Editor. The Foundation has a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through engaging youth in environmental stewardship projects and schoolyard gardening programs. In particular, their ecoSTEM® Resource Kits, Project Hero, and Project Learning Garden programs aim to empower students to help protect pollinators.
The Pollinator Partnership (P2) invites applications for its Executive Director position. P2's founder and long-time Executive Director Laurie Davies Adams announced her pending retirement at the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign annual conference in October, 2016. Laurie launched the Pollinator Partnership twenty years ago in San Francisco when there was relatively little talk of bees or monarch butterflies.
Saying she leaves huge shoes to fill is a gross understatement. She has led the organization in creating the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC), National Pollinator Week and 31 Ecoregional Native Planting Guides for Pollinators. Laurie has signed agreements with over 11 federal agencies influencing over 1.5 billion acres of US land to encourage pollinator conservation. She was a key consultant with the White House on the Presidential Memorandum on Pollinators and instrumental in the development of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.
P2 initiated the National Academies of Science National Research Council study, “Status of Pollinators of North America,” which generated over 300 articles; collectively wrote White Paper “Bombus terrestrus”; published multiple in-house peer-reviewed publications on pollinator conservation and biology as well as publications in industry magazines and journals influencing policy and practice. P2 also created and maintains a vibrant Listserv for daily updates to stakeholders. P2 developed educational brochures on wide ranging topics and organized annual pollinator posters – approx. 500K distributed all around the world.
Click here for a snapshot of the multitude of ways that P2 has raised the profile of pollinator conservation and catalyzed action throughout North America under Laurie's collaborative leadership style. Bee City USA is extremely grateful to Laurie and P2 for the resources they have shared, the introductions they have made through NAPPC, and for their encouragement to our young organization.
Here is the job description. All applications and inquiries should be directed to CEA Recruiting. To be considered for this position, interested candidates must follow the link below to submit a resume, cover letter, and salary requirements through CEA’s job portal. This position will remain open until filled. http://job.ceaconsulting.com/jobs/executive-director-washington-dc-or-san-francisco-ca-37089
The Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund will release their 2017 Request for Proposals for funding today. Grant funding will be awarded in two categories:
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will host a grant application webinar for interested applicants on Monday, February 13th at 12:00 pm Eastern Time/11:00 AM Central Time. You may register here.
Eligible applicants include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, international organizations, and federal, state, tribal, and local governments. Federal entities, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, may be interested in partnering with non-profit organizations. Now is the time to have those partnership conversations in order to meet the March 13 pre-proposal deadline.
For guidance and any questions, Caroline Oswald is the program manager at NFWF and is open to helping you start crafting your proposal. You can reach Caroline at: Caroline.email@example.com, 612-564-7253.
All details (RFP, timeline, tip sheets) can be found online here.
Timeline of the 2017 Monarch Fund:
Wednesday, February 8th--RFP released
Monday, February 13th--Applicant Webinar
Monday, March 13th--Pre-proposals Due
Tuesday, April 11th-- Invitations for Full Proposals are Announced
Tuesday, May 9th-- Full Proposal Due
Early August-- NFWF Board Review of Grants to be Funded
Thursday, August 10th-- 2017 Grant Slate Announced
Any changes to the timeline will be announced on the website: http://www.nfwf.org/monarch
Fighting Insect Pests with Insects in Plant Nursery Industry: Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides Releases New Video
The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides has produced a free, 8 minute video on how Oregon nursery producers are learning to deploy predatory insects in their greenhouses and fields to combat insect pests like white flies, thrips and spider mites. They explored the new approach with Oregon State University after they saw that pests had become resistant to the insecticides they were using. The surprise was that while it required retraining staff, it generally didn't cost any more than using synthetic pesticides. Watch the video here or on NCAP's YouTube channel.
It's no wonder that student intern Megan Tyminski led the effort for the University of Missouri (AKA Mizzou) to apply for certification as a Bee Campus USA affiliate in 2016. She has three titles: Communications Intern for the Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG), VP of Projects for Sustain Mizzou and Project Leader for Sustain Mizzou Beekeeping. Megan recently shared a TV news article about their certification and the following story.
"Mizzou Botanic Garden has been working diligently to recognize the importance of pollinators through programming, events, education and action. On October 24, Bee Campus USA officially recognized MUBG’s efforts by naming the University of Missouri as the 15th educational institution in the nation – and first in the SEC and Midwest region – to the Bee Campus USA program. This signifies pollinator conservation as an official, campus-wide commitment.
The commitments MU has agreed to include establishing a committee with various stakeholders, hosting events and workshops, creating habitats and educating the community. MUBG has been a leading force in carrying out these agreements.
MUBG hosted a National Pollinator Week Symposium, educated groups such as the Boys & Girls Club of Columbia and Columbia Public Schools through pollinator day camps, supported Sustain Mizzou’s beekeeping project, planted native species in the landscaping and holds a seat on the statewide Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative.
MUBG’s interest in pollinators piqued when Chip Taylor from Monarch Watch spoke about milkweed restoration. Since then, MUBG has continued to collaborate with various communities and engaged with them on pollinator conservation.
Each year, MUBG must reapply to retain its Bee Campus USA designation. This means that as the university learns more, it will continue to evolve and do more to protect pollinators. In the future, MUBG hopes to establish beehives at A.L. Gustin Golf Course, create more habitat areas and involve the community in more events.
Learn more about the Mizzou Botanic Garden and the University of Missouri's programs to create habitat for pollinators here."
The rooftop bees of the Renaissance Asheville Hotel invite you to join them February 9, at 5:30-7:30, to benefit the world AND the Center for Honeybee Research! Compare your palette to the judges' of the 6th annual International Black Jar Honey Tasting Contest. Your $25 ticket includes wine or beer, appetizers, music by Benavides and Wolf, a raffle, and a chance to taste 27 truly unique honeys and vote on your Peoples' Choice ballot. Cash bar available. Winning honey to be auctioned.
To get your tickets to this exciting event click here Tickets will be $35 at the door.
The illustrious judges: Katie Button, Jonathan Ammons, Stu Helms, Phyllis Stiles, Dr. Barry Pate, Jr., Chef Richard Petrelli, Nancy Williams, Emily Jackson, Butch Thompson, Cathy Cleary and YOU!
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has announced an exciting new Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative to reverse the decline of monarch butterflies. Read the press release here.
The effort represents a partnership between the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USFWS and targets agricultural land in the eastern monarch's primary migration corridor between Canada and Mexico.
The press release states, "Much of this work will focus on planting and enhancing stands of milkweed and other high-value nectar plants for monarchs. Assistance is available to producers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin."
While the USFWS has committed $20 million over five years to the initiative, they are actively working with other organizations and agencies in the United States, Mexico and Canada to leverage other public and private funding sources. Another bonus is that increasing habitat for monarchs increases habitat for other species, including a wide variety of pollinators.
According to the press release, "Through the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, released by the White House, the United States has a goal of increasing the eastern population of monarchs back to 225 million by 2020."
While being on the endangered list would seem like a horrible state for a species, in fact it is a hopeful step for the once abundant rusty patched bumble bee. According to the New York Times, "When a species is listed as endangered, the Fish and Wildlife Service is required to design a recovery plan, which is often carried out by other agencies, nongovernmental organizations, universities and tribes. Other federal agencies have to check that their actions will not hurt an endangered species or its habitat, particularly when it comes to land use planning."
Kudos to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Xerces Society, photographer and documentarian Clay Bolt, and others for securing this status for the rusty patched bumblebee in a relatively short period of time compared with the time it has taken for other species. The fact that a bumble bee was declared endangered is an indicator of the growing awareness of the role that bees and other pollinators play both in food security and the reproduction of ninety percent of the world's wild plant species.
Here is the New York Times article and the Xerces Society's press release.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service final rule (Public Inspection Document, scheduled to be published 1/11/17) is available on the Federal Register, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/11/2017-00195/endangered-and-threatened-species-rusty-patched-bumble-bee
As I huddle in my house in Asheville, NC, on a very cold, snowy winter day, the promise of Spring makes me smile with anticipation of 100 shades of green; flowers of every size, shape and color; and bees and butterflies flitting around them with long tongues outstretched to drink in their sweet nectar.
Then I remember that Earth Day is April 22 and Arbor Day is generally the last Friday in April (April 29, 2017) or whenever conditions are ideal for tree planting in your area.
It's hard to imagine a better way to celebrate either Arbor Day or Earth Day than by gathering people together for a screening of the inspiring and affordable documentary Hometown Habitats: Stories of Bringing Nature Home. The film has a companion book and screening and discussion guides. To see if a screening is already planned for your area, look here.
This exquisite conversation with Americans of all ages, socioeconomic conditions, educational levels, and political persuasions, showcases how they (people just like you and me) are creating outstanding habitat opportunities for pollinators, birds and other critters everywhere, from New York City to Miami Beach to Denver.
If you want to start the conversation in your community, I urge you to gather your friends and neighbors, including landscapers, land trusts, Sierra Club chapters, plant nurseries, Master Gardeners, native plant societies, Audubon Societies, Parks & Recreation Staff, etc.--anybody remotely interested in landscaping--to watch this documentary and begin brainstorming ways to bring nature home.
The second heaviest user of pesticides in Europe, France, has banned the use of pesticides for weed control in public parks, gardens and forests, citing protecting public and pollinator health as the motivation. This is the first such national ban in the world. Read the story here.
The story also mentions Bee City USA afiliate, Seattle's, bans of pesticides in fourteen of its city parks since 2001.
In response to protests by French and other European beekeepers, European countries placed a moratorium on nenonicotinoid insecticide use as prophylactic seed treatments on certain commodity crops in 2013 and 2014. Recent reports reveal that not only did crop yields not decrease as a result of the moratorium, in some cases they increased.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA director and board.