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CCFB News» July 2024

Planting Seeds"The Power of Pollinators"

07/04/2024 @ 8:30 am | By Katrina Milton, Director of Ag Literacy

This past month has been full of pollinators: two library programs about Monarch butterflies, a “Pizza and Pollinators” PDCH workshop for educators, and pollinator events at Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo.


I’ve loved all of these events because pollinators are one of my favorite topics. A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower. Examples of pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, bats, and hummingbirds.


What I love most about pollinators is how these tiny animals can make such a big difference. According to the USDA, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. Pollinators are definitely a buzzworthy topic worth talking about!


According to the most recent data published March 15 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), honeybee colonies are down 58% from their all-time high in 1947. The Xerces Society’s latest survey, published Jan. 30, indicates that there has been a 30% decline in Monarch butterflies since last year.


However, there is some good news: an April article in Deseret News states that U.S. has added almost a million honeybee colonies in the last five years and Monarch Watch predicts that the population will increase during this breeding season and migration.


Farmers are doing their part to help increase pollinator numbers, too. Pollinators are vital to farming and agriculture because more than 100 crops grown in the U.S. rely on pollinators. According to the USDA, honeybees and native bees are estimated to support $18 to $27 billion in crop yields each year in the U.S. To help pollinators, farmers are planting pollinator gardens, adding hedgerows and field borders, allowing cover crops to flower to feed pollinators, and reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides through Integrated Pest Management practices and organic farming.


For the past two years, I have raised and released Monarch butterflies after finding their eggs on milkweed plants. Milkweed is important to Monarch butterflies because it is the only plant the insect’s larvae (a.k.a. caterpillars) feed on.

I’ve become such a big pollinator fan, I planted milkweed seeds in a small section of my backyard, next to my mom’s rose bush. I am always excited to see butterflies flitting past my backyard’s deck as they stop by to visit. It means that my small pollinator garden is working!


What makes me even more excited to see is the passion others have for pollinators. Every time I wear my bee earrings or Monarch butterfly shirt, I get compliments on them – and a story shared with me. People tell me they eat Honey Nut Cheerios to save honeybees and that Monarchs are their favorite butterfly. It all starts by using a big word, like “pollinator,” for people to ask, “What is that?” That one question snowballs into a conversation about pollinators’ importance, planting milkweed, and how pollination is crucial to agriculture.


If you are interested in pollinators, plant milkweed seeds, start a pollinator garden, or join the CCFB’s Monarch Club (reach out to Bona via email at [email protected]). And most importantly, talk about pollination with family and friends. Share a story or photo of a fuzzy bee or colorful butterfly. If we want to save bees and support Monarch butterflies, it starts with us. Be the change!

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