Tag Archives: pollinator

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.

Planting for pollinators at a Philly landmark

As warmer weather arrives in the Northeast, flowers and trees are blooming and pollinating insects are emerging. What better time to continue our project installing a pollinator garden at Independence National Historical Park! While bees, moths, and flies are enjoying the spring weather, monarch butterflies are making their journey north from Mexico and should be arriving in areas throughout the Northeast in about a month! The monarchs arriving will be the offspring of monarchs that overwintered in Mexico, and will use this garden and others like it. Be sure to plant milkweed for monarchs!

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Student Conservation Association Community Crews with their completed garden

Last month, we partnered with our friends at the National Park Service to begin work with Student Conservation Association community crews on phase one of this project. The garden will provide wildlife-friendly green space for people, as well as habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. In addition to great habitat, this garden will be a useful tool in reaching the community and its visitors to share the importance of pollinators, especially for our nation’s agricultural crops. It will also extend the reach of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge further into the city, providing an opportunity for people to learn more about wildlife conservation, especially those who may not normally not get a chance to visit the refuge in southwest Philly.

On our first days at the garden, we tackled weeds and demolished the garden’s existing English ivy. Most recently, community crews returned to plant the native wildflowers for our local pollinators.

Planting begins!

Planting begins!

The morning was very busy as we worked to distribute mulch and prepare the ground for plants.

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Spreading mulch….and taking a few pics!

After lunch, we transitioned into planting the native wildflowers! Hundreds of plugs were carefully laid out and planted. While these plugs look little now, beebalm, irises, asters and more will soon populate the entire space. The flowers were carefully selected to be several different colors and bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall. This will attract many different species of pollinators and ensure they have food throughout the year.

Plugs laid out for planting.

Plugs laid out for planting.

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Transplanting young plants can be delicate work and the students took it seriously.

Right now, we wait. We’re watering the plants and checking their progress; they seem to be doing okay. Check out the different stages of the garden below and stay tuned for the next installment!

Click here to learn more about you can help monarchs and other pollinators.

Philadelphia Flower Show: Presenting Pollinators!

Yesterday, I had the incredible opportunity to speak about monarch butterflies, pollinators, and native plants at the Gardener’s Studio at the Philadelphia Flower Show! The incredible audience was very receptive and excited to bring home materials that would help attract pollinators to their home gardens.  With the support of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, we were able to share the story of the monarch butterfly with nearly 300 people.

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On stage at the Gardener’s Studio!

After explaining how monarchs and pollinators are essential to our agricultural crops, flowers, and ecosystems, participants in the audience dove at the opportunity to create seed balls and bee bundles to take and use at home. Gardener Studio attendees made about 250 seed balls, containing Pennsylvania native wildflower seeds, which will contribute to the restoration of pollinator habitat. Throwing the seed balls into a sunny spot is all it takes, no maintenance required! This hands-on activity was a hit, especially with kids that wanted to get a little messy.

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Lamar Gore, John Heinz Refuge Manager, demonstrates the optimal seed ball strategy.

Bee bundles were constructed by cutting up sections of Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant, and tying several sections together. The plant stems contain diaphragms that allow solitary bees, like the mason bee, to burrow in for shelter.  Hanging the bee bundles near the garden encourages bees to linger and pollinate garden vegetables and flowers.  Re-purposing the invasive knotweed was another great opportunity to discuss the importance of native plants to our local wildlife.

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Participants making a bee bundle

IMG_0776 (1)The audience had so many great questions about the monarch life cycle and great migration. They were eager to learn how to help out these beautiful butterflies and we quickly distributed 200 packets of common milkweed seeds, the monarch’s host plant. I had a blast sharing the story of the monarch with others, and I was lucky enough to visit the National Park exhibits and Butterflies Live after the presentation!

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Me at the Butterflies Live exhibit.

Click here to learn more about the monarch butterfly and what you can do to protect this iconic species.