Campers at John Heinz Refuge help protect pollinators

As the monarch butterfly intern, it’s my mission to bring you all the latest monarch butterfly news and projects throughout the Northeast Region! What better way to start than right here at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge!

Last week was the refuge’s first week of summer camp and we had an entire day devoted to pollinators and learning about why they are so valuable. The 25 students enrolled in camp have the privilege to explore our trails and discover what the refuge has to offer to our pollinator friends.  Much of their camp experience involves learning  about land use through hands on activities, play, and crafts.

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During a hike, campers stopped to investigate different butterfly species!

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This Eastern Bumblebee rested on my hand for several minutes, giving kids a great opportunity to see the pollen stuck to its legs!

Pollinators can include animals and insects that help transfer pollen from one flower to another. This transfer is what allows the plant to grow and successfully produce fruit and seeds. Pollinators are needed by farmers to pollinate about 75 percent of our agriculture crops throughout the U.S. Honey bees alone are responsible for pollinating $10 billion worth of crops in the U.S each year. Not only are pollinators vital for humans, but wildlife and migratory birds depend on pollinated plants to survive. Due to habitat loss and population declines, our pollinators are in peril, but our campers learned how they can help!

Students learned to create new habitats, called bee bundles, out of natural materials that could be installed at home. They also participated in pollinator surveys and learned to identify pollinating insects. Creating “seed balls” to throw at home was a favorite among the kids and a great way to establish native plants!

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A camper learns to identify pollinators.

Getting youth interested in the outdoors while showing them ways to make a difference ensures they will connect with the environment and make sound decisions as adults. On the last day, parents were invited to come learn about the pollinators and their role in the environment. We shared ideas with families about how they can help at home to protect our busy bees and butterflies. I’d say, it was a success!

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