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Pollinator Stories

Pollinator Stories from Our Members:

At Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, we use many avenues to not only protect and promote native pollinators, but also educate the public about them. Our children’s Discovery Garden is arranged into gardens of pollinator-specific plants, divided into bee, butterfly, and bird gardens. The Discovery Garden, along with three other locations at Phipps, are also certified through Penn State Extension as pollinator-friendly gardens, recognizing the food, host plants, and habitat provided in these spaces for native pollinators. European honey bees kept on site are an easy and accessible introduction to discussing pollinators in general. Finally, offering adult education courses on native pollinators and landscape habitat creation (e.g., “Backyard Entomology,” “Protecting and Promoting Pollinators,” and “Building a Better Bug Hotel”) and our demonstration insect hotel inform the public on pollinator diversity, protection, and appreciation.

Above Photo: The Discovery Garden at Phipps. Photo Credit: Paul Wiegman.  

As part of our efforts in pollinator conservation, we are working to gain a more complete understanding of the biological diversity supported by Lauritzen Gardens so we can practice the best possible ecological stewardship.  To this end, we have ongoing surveys to document the butterfly and bee species that utilize the 100-acre property.  These surveys involve staff, volunteers, high school students, and university faculty and graduate students.  Our butterfly list stands at 57 species, which is rather surprising given the urban context of Lauritizen Gardens.  We are in the second year of a native bee survey that is being conducted by a team of entomologists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The team identified 51 different species at Lauritzen Gardens last year and is currently working to identify specimens collected in 2018.  Both of these surveys are providing insights that will inform management of the garden for the benefit and conservation of pollinators.

Above Photo: Bee Survey at Lauritzen Gardens 

Texas Discovery Gardens is a small, 7 ½ acre garden situated in the center of downtown Dallas.  Despite these limitations, we provide a myriad of opportunities for both the pollinators themselves as well as for visitors to see and learn about them. As a visitor, you enter the foyer and are greeted with awesome suspended mobiles of huge flowers, butterflies, chrysalises, and caterpillars. On the walls are mounted tropical butterflies and a North Texas map with local species displayed.  Distributed around the foyer are individual cases exhibiting live insects and insect relatives.

From there you enter our huge 3-story tropical conservatory, the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium. Not only does it have live tropical butterflies from all over the world, there is a display case full of chrysalises and a transparent honeybee colony to view the bees up close as they go about their work.

As you continue onward you pass through a corridor of windows to view unique live insects before exiting to the outside gardens. One of the first gardens encountered is the Master Gardener’s Garden, an official Monarch Waystation packed with native and adapted plants.  Meandering walkways take you through other delightful gardens providing prolific blooms for pollinators. But the back area of the gardens is where the pollinators are the focus! Here is located the Native Butterfly Habitat. This unique butterfly garden is arranged such that each of its numerous pathways represents an individual family of butterflies and displays many of the host plants for that particular group.  For example, the Fritillary Freeway is an arbor lined with numerous passionflower, flax, and violet species, the Papillio Path has plants preferred by the various swallowtails, and the Buckeye Bypass has snapdragons, plantains, snakeherb, and others their caterpillars feed on.  Danaus Drive terminates at the Monarch Mansion, a creative arbor topped with a 6 foot exact replica of a monarch. 

Above Photo: Monarch Mansion at Texas Discovery Gardens 

On it climb several milkvine species. On either side are displayed a collection of native and tropical milkweeds in front framed in back with frostweed, Baccharis, and numerous mistflower species, favorite nectar plants of monarch and queen butterflies. Throughout this garden are planted hundreds of other nectar plants preferred by pollinators. Ultimately this small garden will display around 600 species of pollinator-preferred plants that can grow in the Dallas area.

Adjacent to the butterfly garden is the Salvia Garden, a collection of salvias loved by both butterflies and hummingbirds. And next to it is the new Hummingbird Garden. Hundreds of plant species known to be used by hummingbirds are planted throughout. Multiple arbors are planted with hummingbird attracting vines and the center of the garden has a tall roosting pole with suspended hummingbird feeders.

To complement the beautiful pollinator gardens, Texas Discovery Gardens has two annual Pollinator Plant Sales to make available to the public this diversity of plant species, many not available anywhere else.  Over 600 varieties emphasizing those used by pollinators are grown in our greenhouses, one of the most diverse selections offered in the country.  And over half of them are native plants, likewise a subject stressed in all our programs.

Additionally, we offer numerous pollinator-themed workshops, programs, and lectures.  Our most popular is our Butterfly Gardening Workshop jointly taught by a staff member and our entomologist John Watts.  Participants get to choose about 18 pollinator plants included with registration.  Some of the related talks he gives include Butterfly Basics, Biology of Butterflies, The Beneficial Garden, Tales of the Dark Side (about moths), Mimicry in Insects, the Marvelous Monarch, Lord of the Flies, What’s the Buzz, and Natural Born Botanists (how observing insects can help identify plants).  Some of our presentations include Native Pollinator Plants, Native Hummingbird Plants, Hummingbird Gardening, and Gardening for Wildlife. Our education department also provides several children’s programs dealing with pollinators.

Lastly, we have designed or completely installed numerous pollinator gardens at local schools, nature centers, the Mayor’s Pollinator Garden at Dallas City Hall, a balcony garden on the 5th floor of the Dallas Library and even helped create a huge garden for the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge!  Additionally, through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, we are enhancing over 80 acres of Dallas City Parks to improve habitat for pollinators, especially monarchs.

All Hallows Guild was founded in 1916 to provide for the care and beautification of the grounds of the National Cathedral. Our mission is to maintain the gardens and grounds as a haven of peace in the midst of the Capital City. The Guild works closely with the horticultural staff to preserve and beautify this historic landscape by providing for the planting and removal of trees, shrubs, perennials, and hardscape. We work to develop landscape designs while keeping in mind the vision of Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and Florence Bratenahl – who sought to create a landscape suitable for a Gothic cathedral.  

We joined the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge in 2018 by registering the Bishop’s Garden at Washington National Cathedral as a place friendly to pollinators. Throughout the spring, summer and fall we have planted pollinator-friendly flowers and are currently working on a new pollinator garden on the Cathedral grounds - that was researched and designed by our three summer horticulture interns. 

We tasked the interns with creating a garden that would be low maintenance and planned to attract bees, butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds. They collaborated on plant choices and layout and listed a number of plants they favor - including echinacea, red-twig dogwood, redbud, butterfly weed, hosta, Joe Pye weed, sea holly, and grasses. 

In the spring, we installed tubes with cocoons of Osmia ‘blue orchard’ bees in a number of trees on the Cathedral grounds. As you can see from the photos below, the project seems to be a success. Our pollinators have been hard at work!

The Glendale Xeriscape (low-water-use) Demonstration Garden is certified as a wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation, and also as a Monarch Waystation through Monarch Watch.  The Glendale Habitat Garden is located near the south entrance of the Glendale Main Library. Showcasing native Sonoran Desert plants and plenty of shade, it provides hospitable habitat for plants, wildlife, and people. Interpretive signage, funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department Heritage Fund, features simple ways to attract wildlife. While the entire Glendale Xeriscape Demonstration garden provides important wildlife and pollinator habitat, the habitat garden is an area that has been specifically designed to make use of several grants to increase the public’s awareness about the importance of gardening for wildlife and attracting pollinators. Glendale conservation staff lead fieldtrips at the garden and teach students about the importance of Sonoran Desert plants and their ability to attract pollinators. See photos below: 

 

At Desert Botanical Garden, we have been contributing to pollinator conservation through multiple methods: propagation of native pollinator plants, planting habitat at schools and community centers, and research into how pollinators and other beneficial insects interact with our native desert plants. Our initiative, Great Milkweed Grow Out, started initially in 2016 with a focus on monarchs, since they seem to have the most impact as far as engaging the general public and a species for which there is clear data on declines. However, we have since branched out to other pollinators. We found initially that native (untreated) plants that support pollinators were hard to find, so we started propagating plants that were not readily found in cultivation. Since 2016, we have distributed more than 6,000 plants, primarily milkweed and many thousands of seeds (collected from our garden plants). We also plant habitat (that qualifies as both Monarch Waystations and for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge) at schools and community centers. We have also been researching the best milkweeds for support of monarchs, pollinators and beneficial insects. We have been conducting field trials and recording the beneficial insects that come to four different native milkweed taxa. This is particularly important here, as the Sonoran Desert has one of the highest diversities of native bees in the world. This research and future research will help us determine the best species for us to grow and plant in our area to support monarchs and pollinators.

The Pollinator Garden at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum was designed with two purposes.  First, it was created as an educational space where visitors that explored our Pollinator Meadow could identify some of the flowering plants they had seen in the meadow.  Second, it features more floriferous and compact "nativars" that may be easier for homeowners to site in a residential landscape.  The Pollinator Garden is used as an educational resource for youth and adult programs, and it's almost entirely maintained by Knox County Master Gardeners.

Pollinator Meadow

Over the past 3 years, we have partnered with the USDA NRCS to create 5-acres of native meadow that will provide food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife at the Gardens.  After years of site preparation and invasives removal, in March, 2019 the NRCS planted one 3.5 acre meadow in the heart of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and a second 1.5 acre meadow next to our Outdoor Explorer Classroom.  Seedlings are already emerging, and we are excited to see what impact this space has on the Garden ecosystem.  Visitors are able to explore and experience the meadow on both gravel and mowed paths.  

Pollinator Grove

Planting for pollinators doesn't always mean growing herbaceous plants.  This spring, Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum partnered with the City of Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department, Trees Knoxville, and the Knoxville Permaculture Guild to plant 40 native trees (17 species) that will provide food and habitat to pollinating insects and animals.  Interpretive signage and plant labels will provide information that we hope will encourage visitors to select trees for their home landscapes that support pollinators.

Native Bee Hives

Over the past several years, local scout groups have created native bee hives that are located throughout the property.  The first batch of hives was constructed by an Eagle Scout in 2013, and the second batch was constructed by a Girl Scout for her Gold Star Award in 2016.  These hives provide habitat for native bees that burrow and nest in wood.

Honey Bee Hives

The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum partners with local beekeeper Jay Roach of TenneBee Honey to maintain and display hives on-site.  Roach selected the Gardens as one of the sites for his hives as a way to bolster the genetic diversity of his hives.  One thing that sets TenneBee honey apart from other local beekeepers is their goal is to grow healthy bees rather than to produce a great deal of honey. 

Youth Education

Pollinators are definitely a very popular theme for our youth education programs.  We typically set aside a full month of Story Thyme in the Garden for preschoolers to learn about bees and butterflies and to observe pollinating insects in action.  Many field trip participants learn about pollinators as a part of the lesson plant and explore the Pollinator Garden.  When the Pollinator Meadow renovation is complete, this will be an important tool for youth education programs as well.

Adult Education

The Gardens strives to include pollinator education as a component of our annual workshop schedule.  This fall, representatives from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency will lead an educational program for Knoxville area residents who are interested in converting part of their landscape into wildflower meadow.  In the past, we've partnered with experts from the Knoxville Beekeepers Association to host introductory beekeeping classes.

Citizen Science Research

Discover Life in America is partnering with the Knoxville Botanical Gardens to host a BioBlitz in the Gardens as a part of National Public Gardens Week.  Visitors will be encouraged to use the iNaturalist App to identify plants, lichens, fungi, as well as pollinating insects and animals that are present on the property.  This week-long event will engage visitors in cataloguing the diversity of plants and animals, including pollinators.  

Formal Research

Staff with the University of Tennessee's Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology have expressed interest in doing formal research on-site at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens.  This would include measuring counts of pollinating species at different times of the year in order to study the impact that the new 5-acre Pollinator Meadow as well as other plantings across the property will have on species diversity and population.

 

McIntire Botanical Garden located in Charlottesville, Virginia has just finished its schematic design phase, but the garden is yet to be built. However, PhD candidate in the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences, Amber Slatosky, contacted the board of directors to ask to use the space for a study she is conducting this spring on bumblebees.

Amber is trying to understand how different species of bumble bees respond to parasites and parasitoids. She began the study by mounting “bee boxes” at the garden site, hoping to attract queen bumble bees to use the boxes for nesting. Once some queens have produced quite a lot of workers, she will move the boxes to her field site where she will to turn them into HIGH TECH colonies.

In these high-tech colonies each worker is uniquely identified by a numbered tag and a small microchip. As workers enter or leave the colony, the microchip is read by a computer and their passage is detected by a motion-sensing camera. Even the temperature and humidity are recorded. Bees can be easily recorded as they leave on each trip, and then return with pollen and nectar. Their pollen can even be seen on camera!

While out gathering these resources, they sometimes also get attacked by conopid flies. This fly grows their young inside of bees, and may impact how well bees are able to do their foraging. By monitoring workers, Amber can see how bee foraging is impacted by these fly larvae, while also gaining a unique perspective on the secret lives of our lesser-known native bumblebees.

McIntire Botanical Garden demonstrates that at any stage in a garden’s development, the chance for research exists. We at the garden are excited that we can contribute in a small way to the important on-going study of pollinating insects.

Above Photo: PhD candidate Amber Slatosky monitoring her work at McIntire Botanical Garden