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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Pollinators in Peril!

By Rebecca Bartel, USFWS

This week is National Pollinator Week and a great opportunity to focus on pollinator conservation actions!

When we think of pollinators — animals that carry pollen from flower to flower as they feed on nectar — we usually think of honeybees or butterflies. But lots of different kinds of animals are pollinators, including hummingbirds and even some beetles, flies, and even bats.

Pollinators aren't just important in keeping backyard gardens blooming; they are also vital in the production of agricultural products. These hard-working animals face a lot of challenges though and many are vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation as well as improper use of pesticides.

Did you know that more than 30 species of pollinators in the U.S. are currently listed as threatened or endangered? These imperiled animals include more than 25 species of butterflies, multiple birds, beetles, and fly species, and two mammals—the Mexican long-nosed bat and the lesser long-nosed bat.

The lesser long-nosed bat is a migratory pollinator and found in the southwest deserts of Arizona and New Mexico in summer months and in Mexico during the winter. It is currently the featured pollinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

longnosebat(Photo: Bill Radke/USFWS)

Another pollinator that is fighting for survival is the endangered Schaus swallowtail butterfly, which occurs only in a small area in southern Florida.

In 2011, only 41 individuals were observed in field. Numbers observed this flight season were even more alarming, with just 3-5 butterflies detected.

As a result, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency authorization on June 13, 2012, for the collection and captive rearing of the butterflies in an effort to save them from extinction.

Together, scientists at the University of Florida, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will try to capture female butterflies for the collection of eggs and captive rearing. These actions may help Schaus populations rebound and increase.

How can you help? Stay tuned! We will be adding the Top Five Things You Can Do to Help Pollinator list later this week!

Rebecca Bartel, Ph.d., is part of the Inventory and Monitoring Network in the National Wildlife Refuge System. She works at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

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