New Life for Old Fields

It’s been a summer packed with pollinators for Clare Maffei and Jackie Hannifan, both working hard with the Service to evaluate the success of pollinator habitat created in 2014. In Caroline County, MD, partner lands were seeded with a native wildflower and grass seed mix with the hope of establishing healthy plants for pollinators. Since early June, Clare and Jackie have been monitoring the sites to evaluate the pollinator community during peak blooms and make recommendations for future restoration efforts.

To achieve these objectives, Clare and Jackie are conducting vegetation, caterpillar, butterfly, and bee surveys. The pair used many methods to collect their data, including timed photographic surveys of butterflies, caterpillar identification on vegetation in the area, long-term trapping and hand netting of bees. This allows us to understand the diversity of pollinators in the restored pollinator meadows. To evaluate vegetation, 1 meter x 1 meter quadrats are placed on the ground at randomly selected points throughout the area and all plants in the quadrat are identified. Then, percent coverage of each species was estimated to determine the evenness of the plant community.

Initial surveys indicated that three out of four of the sites are providing good pollinator habitat; the dominant plants in the area were species that had been seeded in 2014. Seventeen of the twenty native plants that were seeded have been observed at the sites. Wild bergamot, partridge pea, and black-eyed susans have established particularly well. A few invasive plants were also observed in the area, but have not yet become dominant. This monitoring project will continue through the end of summer, with an end of season vegetation survey to confirm the presence of late season blooming wildflowers.

Monarchs have been observed at all sites. Eastern tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, American painted ladies, variegated fritillary, and common buckeyes are also frequently observed. Overall, 326 adult butterflies and moths and 591 caterpillars were counted and identified. The vibrant flowers and sturdy stems in these meadows are providing prime resources for an abundance of bumble and carpenter bees. Over 1,000 bees have been collected, but it will take a significant amount of time to process all the samples. Preliminary examinations indicate the collection includes many common eastern bumble bees and honey bees, as well as a few more species that were difficult to identify. A few surprising specialist bees were discovered, such as the Rudbeckia andrena, a bee that relies strictly on coneflowers. Overall, these plots of land appear to be providing beneficial habitat to a wide range of wildflowers and insects, and will continue to be successful in the coming seasons.

Clare Maffei is a Directorate Resource Assistant Fellow, hired on through Student Conservation Association for the Chesapeake Bay Field Office for the summer. She’s Master’s student with the Geography and Environmental Systems Department at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, studying Community Ecology.

Jackie Hannifan is a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar from the University of Arizona. Jackie is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Natural Resources with a Conservation Biology focus. They are grateful for the assistance of interns from the Maryland Fisheries Department at CBFO, as well as summer interns at Masonville Cove for volunteering to help collect data on field days.

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