Probably the most iconic pollinators recently have been monarch butterflies , who are in trouble due to habitat loss.

Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars rely on it to feed. Unfortunately milkweed is not as common as it once was for a variety of reasons. The US Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with many other groups and individuals has been working to reverse that trend.

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At Black Bayou Lake we have been taking action to help pollinators. In 2014 we established a pollinator garden next to the Visitor Center, it is filled with native plants that are beneficial not just to monarchs but to other butterflies and bees. Starting in 2015 we redid the raised boxes in front of the Conservation Learning Center as pollinator gardens. In the fall of 2015 volunteers undertook a larger effort, planting over 500 milkweed plants around the prairie area and down what we are now calling Monarch Mile, the road just to the west of the railroad tracks. Over the next couple of years, we hope to plant more plants beneficial to pollinators, including goldenrod, coneflowers, bee balm, and many more native plants. Aside from the benefit to pollinators, native plants are used by many other types of wildlife and as natives, they do well in our Louisiana weather which can go from soaking wet to dry for months. 

On the Saturday during National Pollinator Week in June, we have a public activity and invite people to learn more about pollinators. We also incorporate pollinator education into many of our other programs and have a handout about native plants for people to use to plan their own gardens.

Pollinators are not something most of us think about too often; but, when we go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, much of what we eat is produced because of pollinators. In the US honey bees and other pollinators produce $40 billion worth of products annually. When you have your orange juice in the morning or put honey on your toast, thank a pollinator. Think of some of our favorite summer snacks – melons and peaches, both need pollinators. For those people who can’t exist without coffee in the morning or chocolate at any point, thank a pollinator. For those who like to relax with a margarita at the end of the week, the agave plant that provides tequila is pollinated by bats. The ranks of pollinators include bees, birds, bats, butterflies, beetles, and moths, as well as some other animals.

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We invite you to learn more about pollinators and enjoy their habitat out at the refuge. To find out more about what the government is doing to help pollinators read the report from the Pollinator Health Task Force.