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 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.firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
Western North Carolina Nature Writer George Ellison Writes Weekly Nature Column, Oftentimes, About Plants & Their Pollinators
As wild bees begin to prepare for the winter, those individuals that will "hibernate" to ensure the continuation of the species the next spring, do their very best to gather all of the pollen and nectar they can to fatten up. That's why fall flowers, like goldenrod, are such welcome sights.
For many years, naturalist George Ellison has contributed a weekly column to the Asheville Citizen-Times, illustrated by his wife, Elizabeth Ellison. Here is the most recent column about the many species of goldenrod.
The North Carolina Arboretum, a public garden and affiliate of the University of North Carolina system, and Bee Campus USA, are pleased to announce that the Arboretum is the seventh institution to be certified as a Bee Campus USA affiliate.
The Arboretum’s Executive Director George Briggs said, “As an affiliate of the University of North Carolina system, the Arboretum works hard to provide our members, visitors and students with educational opportunities that align with both our mission and the University. Bee Campus USA is a terrific organization and we are excited to have them as a partner to help us grow our program even further.”
In addition to creating and enhancing pollinator-focused landscapes on its campus, the Arboretum works with volunteers and other outside organizations to create pollinator gardens in the community.
“Learning through service is a core value of our educational institution,” commented Clara Curtis, senior director for mission delivery at The North Carolina Arboretum. “For example, our partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific is enabling the establishment of pollinator gardens at five local schools and our ecoEXPLORE initiative is helping us create similar features at all twelve branches of the Buncombe County Public Library System. We are extremely excited about all of these efforts to increase awareness about the benefits of pollinators in our region.”
Read the full press release here.
Check out Plough to Pantry Magazine's Winter 2016 issue to read Bee City USA director Phyllis Stiles' article about how bumblebees have evolved to survive winter and sustain their species.
There you will see Linda Santell's whimsical illustration of a mated bumblebee queen passing the dark winter days by a glowing fire, where she knits booties for her spring colony. You can support Bee City USA by ordering your print through ETSY.
Thanks to Plough to Pantry and to Linda Santell for helping us to spread awareness about pollinator life cycles!
While hiking the Appalachian Trail at Max Patch yesterday, William Saupe snapped a couple of pictures of monarchs cavorting in the common milkweed on their southward flight to Mexico. Enjoy! (Thanks, William!)
Southern Oregon University is pulling out all of the stops for this year's Arbor Day Celebration. In addition to planting lots of trees, they are announcing that they have been designated a Tree Campus USA and the inaugural Bee Campus USA! Listen to an interview here.
Noted mycologist Paul Stamets will speak on April 8 at 9:30 and the Bee Campus USA announcement will take place at 12:00.
Thanks to all North Carolinans who rushed to wherever the Bee Aware Team were tabling that day to add their order to the stack. Now the kids have enough to ask the legislature to approve their specialty license plate which will support the native pollinator habitat at Grandfather Mountain and bee research at North Carolina State University for years and years to come.
Hopefully by this summer, any North Carolina driver will be able to choose a Save the Honeybee specialty license plate.
Thanks to these kids for inspiring us all.
Need some inspiration? Last September, several people who are passionate about monarch butterflies infected the small western North Carolina town of Black Mountain with monarch fever. In association with The Black Mountain Center for the Arts, Bring Back the Monarchs Black Mountain created an arts and community awareness project to call attention to the drastic plunge in the monarch butterfly population.
Happily, you can catch the fever too by watching the video: Bring Back the Monarchs. The 250 children who migrated through the town square with poster board monarchs strapped to their arms will never forget that experience, and they will plant milkweed so once again we can watch the annual monarch flyover. For more information, go to bringbackthemonarchs.org and monarchrescue.org.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA coordinator and Xerces Society.