A Talk on the Wild Side.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates pollinators during Pollinator Week 2021.
A monarch butterfly on milkweed. Photo by Mara Koenig/USFWS
In the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s role as a lead conservation agency, protecting pollinators and the plants and habitat they rely on for food and shelter is a daunting and urgent need. Pollinators are vital to maintaining diverse ecosystems and the health and abundance of pollinators is an indicator of the health of the overall environment in which we live.
Through the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Service is currently charged with the recovery of more than 70 pollinators – including bees, bats, butterflies, and birds – that are rapidly declining because of habitat lost to development, disease, changing habitats and environments due to climate change, and improper pesticide use.
The monarch butterfly – a candidate species for federal protection – inspires wonder and passion in people across North America. Yet the monarch is just one of many pollinators that need everyone’s help to not only survive, but thrive.
A rusty patched bumble bee on wild bergamot, spotted during a bee survey near Minneapolis. The species is endangered throughout its range and was the first bumble bee to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS
The rusty patched bumble bee was once a common sight throughout Maine, south to parts of the Carolinas, east to Illinois and as far west as the Dakotas. Today the bumble bee likely only exists in small areas in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Virginias, representing 0.1% of the landscape it occupied just 20 years ago. In 2017 the rusty patched was the first bumble bee protected under the ESA.
The power of the ESA to provide resources and mobilize federal partners, NGOs, and the public is evident in the recent discovery of three rusty patched bumble bee nests, two in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, where they have not been observed since the 1990s. The nests were all found by private citizens who’d learned of the bumble bee through collaborative outreach efforts and community engagement. The data gathered from the nests provide important and exciting opportunity for Service and other scientists to learn more about the bumble bee, its habitat preferences, food preferences, genetics, and more. The results can also help further refine conservation and recovery efforts.
This story is just one of many across the United States of how collaboration and public involvement are key to protecting and recovering the pollinators with which we share the landscape. For those looking for ways to help, think about the space you occupy on the landscape – be that your patio, your backyard, your neighborhood, or your back forty – and what small steps you can take to make your space in the world welcoming for pollinators.
Here is a good place to start: our redesigned Pollinators webpage. Or look to your local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office, national wildlife refuge or conservation community to find information about your local pollinators and opportunities to get engaged. We need everyone’s help to protect pollinators.