Raising a Buzz for Bees and Butterflies

AUSTIN June 19, 2015 - The Lone Star State is celebrating birds, bees, butterflies and bats this week in celebration of National Pollinator Week, which signifies the importance of pollinators to not only the ecosystem, but to the economy.

“Now, more than ever, people are recognizing the importance of pollinators to the wellbeing of ecosystems and our economy; as well as, the easy steps we can all take to protect these important species,” said Ben Hutchins, TPWD Invertebrate Biologist. “Roughly one third of all the food we eat is because of pollination that happened in a farmer’s field

Annually, bee-pollinated crop are estimated to add more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. In North America, most plant pollination is carried out by bees, and the act of pollination itself is a service worth an estimated $3 billion annually.

This cause is getting high profile support. Last month, Governor Abbott signed a proclamation marking June 15-21 at Pollinator Week in Texas.

“Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes,” said Gov. Abbott in his proclamation. “While the iconic honeybee is the most well-known, moths, wasps, beetles, butterflies and birds share the load of spreading the pollen that helps plants grow healthy and strong. These creatures help maintain a beautiful and healthy ecosystem.”

Unfortunately, bee populations around the country, both native and introduced have been suffering some worrisome declines related to competition with non-native species, loss of habitat, weather, and disease. Researchers and bee-keepers across the United States have reported the loss of 30-40% of honey bee colonies, with some localized areas experiencing even more loss.

Wild, native bee populations are harder to monitor, but researchers continue to report widespread decline in native bee species, including the probable extinction of several species.

But news isn’t all bad. Big things are happening at local, state, national, and multi-national levels, giving pollinator conservationists a cause for optimism.

Last February, President Obama met with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts at a North American Leaders Summit. The three leaders agreed to form a tri-national working group to identify conservation needs for an iconic pollinator that is close to the hearts of Texans: the monarch butterfly.

TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith is serving as the state wildlife agency representative on a high-level working group comprised of representatives from multiple federal agencies and non-government organizations tasked with creating a national monarch conservation plan. Similarly, TPWD is creating a state monarch conservation plan to identify current conservation needs and efforts that entities throughout the state can join in to conserve habitat much needed for the monarch butterfly migration.

“Though the threats facing pollinating insects are substantial, I’ve never seen so much public interest in the protection of invertebrate species,” said Hutchins. “If our pollinators are to recover from the declines that we’ve been witnessing, it will be thanks to the efforts of not only federal and state agencies, but individual Texans doing their part to make Texas a more pollinator-friendly environment.”

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