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Butterflies

Pollinator Week: Celebrating Blue Butterflies on the Great Lakes

In honor of National Pollinator Week, the U.S. Forest Service joins organizations and individuals across the world to celebrate pollinators and share ways to help them survive and thrive.

Pollinators are vital to healthy ecosystems. Eighty percent of flowering plants require pollination by animals to successfully reproduce and produce seeds and fruits. Plants and pollinators together provide the basis for life by converting sunlight into food, materials for shelter, clean air, clean water, medicines, and other necessities of life.

High Five for Pollinators: Busy Bees, Bats and Butterflies

Day and night, pollinators are at work all around us—and it's not just honey bees. Did you know that pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we eat? If you'd like to learn more, we've pulled together five blogs from 2015 highlighting some surprising facts about these busy helpers and the many ways different USDA agencies, farmers, ranchers and other partners are working to keep all pollinators healthy.

Library Garden Provides 'Rest Stop' for Monarch Butterflies

The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.

We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants.

NRCS Partners with Farmers, Ranchers to Aid Monarch Butterflies

No matter where you grew up, you are likely familiar with monarch butterflies. You may have childhood memories from science class when you watched those peculiar green caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies. Depending on where you live, you may have seen masses of their orange-and-black wings fluttering in the sky while the butterflies were on their annual cross-country migratory journey.

Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers.

Migrating Monarchs

Last month, beautiful monarch butterflies floated across Chicago’s skyline as a part of their annual migration. During this year’s journey, they found more milkweed plants in several places along their paths because of an innovative program that connects urban communities with nature.

Area school kids, their families and teachers involved in an innovative project were thrilled: they had planted milkweeds in schoolyards and home gardens to attract more monarchs to the city … and it worked.  Many of the families are originally from Michoacan, Mexico, where the butterflies spend the winter.

Updated USDA Program Enables Farmers and Ranchers to Help Monarch Butterflies

An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.

Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed.

Celebrating a World of Benefits from a Dwindling Resource

Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival.

It's Time to Talk about the Birds and the Bees -- and the Butterflies, Bats and Beetles

Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:

From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining.

Pollinator Week Brings Focus on Honey Bee Health

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The buzz of a honey bee and the flutter of a butterfly bring happy thoughts of beautiful gardens. These pollinators are also hard at work providing vital services that are critical to our national and global food supplies. Honey bees to native bees and birds, bats and butterflies help ensure the production of plentiful fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. Unfortunately, the number of pollinators has been declining in recent years due to many factors.

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators.