The Need For Pollinators
Butterflies have long been admired for their beauty and grace, but often fail to receive the appreciation they so earnestly deserve for their role in plant pollination. Pollinators, such as bees, bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies, are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat! Unfortunately, many pollinator populations are at risk. Decades of stressors, including loss of habitats, improper use of pesticides and herbicides, disease, predation, and even rising temperatures due to climate change, have all hurt pollinator populations.
An estimated 87.5% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination—they need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1,200 crops. Without pollination, most crops would simply fail to bear fruit and eventually become extinct—as would the animals that rely on them for sustenance.
Pollinators are vital economically, adding $217 billion dollars to the global economy. In the United States, honeybees alone are responsible for between $1.2 and $5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity. Pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.
Tragically, a host of environmental imbalances are decimating many Florida pollinator populations. For example, Florida monarch butterfly populations have dropped an alarming 80% since 2005!
The monarch butterfly has recently been added to the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the imperiled butterfly on the waiting list for the Endangered Species Act protections and will propose listing it in 2024.
Researchers believe that shrinking populations of native milkweed (the monarch’s host plant), due in part to a boost in the use of the herbicide glyphosate (lethal to milkweed), is responsible for its population decline. Less milkweed means less habitat, and less habitat means less monarch butterflies, an essential food source for birds and mice. These chain effects inevitably undermine the entire ecosystem.
Bees are facing the danger of a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD). A paper from Oregon State University explains CCD: “CCD most likely stems from a combination of problems associated with agricultural beekeeping, including pathogens, nutritional deficiencies and lack of a varied diet, exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides and other pesticides, lack of genetic diversity, habitat loss, and transportation stress. Pesticides, stress, and lack of diversity can actually exacerbate the vulnerability of bees to pathogens.”
Four species of hummingbirds in North America are at risk because of the rising temperatures due to climate change: Allen’s Hummingbird, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, and Rufous Hummingbird.
The increasing warmer temperatures are forcing these four species to abandon their native areas for cooler and more stable environments. Intense heat is incredibly dangerous for hummingbirds as it forces them to find shade to cool off rather than feed on nectar, which can result in starvation since their high metabolism demands that they constantly need to eat.
Bats are another species of a pollinator affected by rising temperatures. The warmer weather impacts their hibernation cycles and their prey availability, which directly affect how successfully a mother bat can give birth and raise her young. According to a National Geographic article, climate change is also impacting their ultrasonic hearing:
“Bats living in temperate zones were more likely to lose prey detection volume, while in tropic zones, many bat species will actually be able to detect more prey. Bats calling at lower pitches generally gained prey detection space” because humidity and temperature directly impact how effectively bats can detect their prey.
MEETING THE NEED
Protecting pollinators requires both conservation and education. That’s why Flamingo Gardens is partnering with the Smithsonian to bring their traveling exhibit, “Pollination Investigation,” to the Gardens to help educate visitors about pollinators. That’s also why we have established the bee sanctuary so that honeybees may be safely relocated rather than destroyed, and opening the new Butterfly Conservatory so that we may rear native butterflies to help re-establish local populations.
Educating individuals about pollinator life cycles, migration patterns, and ecological roles cultivates an appreciation for these animals and encourages people of all walks of life to invest in and protect native butterfly and pollinator habitats, promoting their survival and ensuring their crucial role in the ecosystem continues.
HOW YOU CAN HELP POLLINATORS
- Plant a variety of pollinator friendly flowers and plants that are native to your climate.
- Stop or limit the use of pesticides on your property – pesticides are toxic to pollinators.
- Create a habitat that is friendly to bees. This means either placing beehives on your property, leaving dead logs around that bees can nest in, and simply ensuring bees have plenty of bee-friendly plants to feed from in your yard.
- Provide nectar for hummingbirds on your property. You can do this by buying a feeder for hummingbirds and filling it with sugar water.
- Place a bat house on your property. This will provide bats a safe place to sleep during the day.
- Plant milkweed plants. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves and feed on the nectar of the flowers.
Eco-teers: BCPS Climate Youth Summit
On February 10th, The Eco-teers participated in the fifth annual Broward County Public Schools Youth Climate Summit as a climate sponsor for the event. Hundreds of Broward County students gathered at Pompano Beach High School to discuss the solutions they can implement in their community.
Karen Hendriks, Ines Rosales, and Giuliana Mudryj shared their experience as Eco-teers and encouraged students to join them at Flamingo gardens to make environmental change. Along with their optimistic perspectives, they brought along some popular pollinators such as the Monarch and Zebra Longwing butterfly to highlight the importance of the role they have and how climate change severely increases biodiversity loss.
Eco-teers Tree Tops Park Invasive Plant Removal
On Sunday, January 29, 2023, the Eco-teers volunteered at Tree Tops Park in Davie. The project focused on removing invasive plant species such as the snake plant.
Snake plants are just one of the many exotic plants that become invasive when planted outdoors in Florida. These plant species spread ferociously and can displace and prevent native plant growth. A healthy plant community has a variety of shrubs and trees, but invasive plants cause biological pollution thus reducing plant diversity.
When removing snake plants, always make sure to pull or dig out all the roots, which look like carrots, or the plant will re-establish itself.
The Eco-teers successfully filled twenty large trash bins of these invasive plants by shoveling out the roots from the ground while simultaneously pulling down any vines or clusters attached.
Would you like to participate in the next project?
If you would like to make an environmental impact in your community, contact [email protected] to join the Eco-teers!
Volunteer Spotlight: Nic Lagriola
Our Volunteer of the Month for December is Nic Lagriola. Nic has consistently been volunteering with us since June and has already provided us with over 200 hours in that time span. He’s always willing to get his hands dirty and can often be seen assisting our Animal Care department with various tasks and projects. Nic has also helped us by providing us with donations that have aided the volunteer department in organizing traffic during Garden of Lights which as you know is one of our busiest times of the year. We are so grateful for all effort he has put in to helping our animals as well as the volunteer department.
Volunteer Spotlight: Merville Dormeus
Eco-teers Climate Fair
On Sunday, November 13, 2022, the Eco-teers presented their first Climate Fair in the courtyard of Flamingo Gardens from 10am to 4pm.
The Eco-teers and other community partners presented the fair to educate the public on the impacts of climate change and ways they can make a difference. Guests could visit booths and have their “climate passport” stamped for discounted admission to Flamingo gardens for the day.
The Eco-teers presented a special “Climate 101” presentation in the Mary N. Porter Learning Center at 11:30 in partnership with the CLEO Institute, describing the effects of fossil fuels on the planet and the resulting effects of global warming.
Thanks to all our community partners: Right to Clean Water, MODS, Activities with Alexa, SeaTurtle OP, Cotton Talk, the CLEO institute, and MangroLife.
Would you like to participate in the next project? Email [email protected] to apply!
Volunteer of the Month: Henry Roesslhumer
Our Volunteer of the Month for October 2022 is Henry Roesslhumer.
Henry started volunteering at Flamingo Gardens in September and has already accumulated close to 70 hours. With dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian, Henry has been volunteering in our Animal Care Department early in the morning preparing diets and cleaning enclosures. On top of those hours, he volunteered every Saturday and Sunday during Harvest Fest, assisting with pony rides, hayrides, and the Gallery exhibit. He even helped with renovations for the Animal Care department. He’s always willing to do whatever we ask and his hard work and commitment to volunteering are truly appreciated!
Thank you Henry!
More Green, Less Screen
The amount of time children spend outside in nature has decreased significantly over the years, while the amount of time spent in front of entertainment devices has increased. It is said that the average American child spends less than 30 minutes a day outside in unstructured play but spends more than seven hours a day in front of an electronic screen.
Whether you grew up in the city, in the suburbs, or in the country, chances are you probably spent time outside playing and exploring. Maybe you climbed trees in the backyard or rode bicycles down the street to the corner store or played ball in the vacant lot.
Unfortunately, young children today do not have as much interaction with nature as previous generations and it’s taking a toll. Childhood obesity rates have doubled and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen tremendously.
In his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe the then-controversial theory that detachment from the outdoors results in poor physical and mental health for both adults and children.
While not a recognized medical condition, Nature Deficit Disorder has gained scientific traction. Since his book, hundreds of studies have shown a connection between exposure to the outdoors and better health, as well as better learning and cognitive development, among children.
According to a 2010 report released by the National Wildlife Federation, Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit Through Outdoor Play, the benefits of nature can be seen on many levels. The report contends that outdoor play increases fitness and builds active, healthy bodies, raises levels of Vitamin D to protect against a myriad of childhood health problems, and improves vision.
Exposure to nature may also be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. Outdoor play reduces children’s’ stress, anxiety, and depression levels, while enhancing a child’s social skills and ability to form relationships.
The reports also contends that children that participate in outdoor environmental education programs score higher in math, reading, writing, and listening skills, and significantly increases critical thinking among students.
Flamingo Gardens has been at the forefront of providing environmental education for almost 40 years, providing fieldtrips to about 28,000 school children annually. But we can do more!
That’s why we’re launching “More Green, Less Screen” a new program to encourage kids to put away their electrical devices and spend more time outdoors. Look for #MoreGreenLessScreen campaign to come in 2023.
Volunteer of the Month: John Leon
Our Volunteer of the Month for September 2022 is John Leon.
John has been volunteering with us for almost 2 years and has taken part in every special event we’ve had.
John has accumulated a total of 205 hours and in September volunteered every single weekend for the full day. John has been a guide, assisted in our café, kept the park clean, helped prepare for events, and even helped with renovations for the Animal Care department. He’s always willing to do whatever we ask and that’s why we appreciate him so much.
Thank you John!