Informational seminar to focus on Ohio’s pollinators

A bee gathering nectar from a spring twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) flower. The fragile flowers bloom around Thomas Jefferson's birthday, April 13, and last for only a few days. (Photo by Frank Hinchey)

Pollinating insects are making up for lost time in Ohio as a late spring wakes up nectar-filled wildflowers along byways, in fields and prairies, and residential backyards.

To better help Ohioans understand plant pollination, and “how bees do it,” along with other pollinators, the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife is hosting a free informational seminar May 8 at the DOW District Two office in Findlay, Ohio, 952 Lima St., from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Preregistration is required by May 7 by calling Meredith Gilbert at 419-429-8359 or e-mailing meredith.gilbert@dnr.state.oh.us.

In addition, Marci Lininger and Mike Retterer of the grass-roots Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) will join other speakers at a native plant symposium April 28 at the Procter Center in London, Ohio, starting at 10 a.m.

Lininger, strategic projects coordinator for OPHI, and Retterer, OPHI state coordinator, and a wildlife biologist with Pheasants Forever, will discuss best management practices for selecting, prepping, and establishing pollinator habitat as well as seed selection.

Admission is $20, which includes lunch. Participants will receive a folder of information and seed packets.

Keynote speaker Douglas Tallamy will discuss how to create habitats and support pollinating insects. Tallamy is a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware and author of “Bringing Nature Home: How Native plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.” The New York Times called Bringing Nature Home, “A fascinating study of the trees, shrubs, and vines that feed the insects, birds, and other animals in the suburban garden.”

Michael Goldman of the the Grange Insurance Audubon Center will share how to select the right plant to attract birds and Julie Cummings will share how farmers can make a difference in establishing pollination habitats. Cummings will also have native plant plugs for sale from the Madison County Soil and Water District.

Gilbert said the DOW pollinator seminar will mainly focus on butterflies and bees, “but the general principles can be expanded out for many other types of pollinators and wildlife.”

Other topics covered by the DOW seminar will cover why pollinators are important
and threats they face in nature and from humans, the life history and information about the declining Monarch butterfly, which needs milkweed plant to survive and to thrive and how to create a backyard habitat for pollinators with an emphasis on site preparation and choosing the right plant to attract pollinators.

“Meredith is a wonderful educator and ODNR DOW is a partner with OPHI and a great supporter of pollinator-habitat restoration in Ohio,’ wrote Lininger in an e-mail. “I highly recommend the event for anyone who would like to know more about the importance of pollinators.”

“We may work for different agencies,” said Emilee Hardesty, a DOW private lands biologist, “but we all have the same mission: to enhance or create habitat on the ground for birds or pollinators.”

Pollination of plants by bees and other insects are valued at an estimated $3 billion in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

AnnMarie Krmpotich, ​USFWS National Monarch butterfly conservation coordinator, works with federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations such as rights-of-way groups to get more habitat for Monarch butterflies, whose life cycle begins with the milkweed plant. Monarchs lay their eggs in milkweed plants and Monarch caterpillars feed on  the milkweed plant, which contains a toxin that  some avian predators find distasteful and avoid feeding on the caterpillars.

In addition to milkweed, Krmpotich said Monarchs like nectar of New England asters, purple cone flower, and goldenrod.

The leading NGO for Monarch conservation, according to Krmpotich, is the Monarch Joint Venture, which, since 2009, has brought together over 70 partners from across the nation to implement science-based conservation actions in the form of education, habitat, and research.

“In just the 13 years from 1999 to 2012, it is estimated there was a 64 percent decline in overall milkweed in the Midwest, most of which was from croplands,” according to a 2014 petition to federally protect the Monarch butterfly.

Monarchs are in such steep decline that the petition seeking protection for Monarchs was submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior to list the Monarch under the federal Endangered Species Act. A decision is due in June 2019.

The OPHI was started, in large part, as a result of that petition, Lininger said. Since its founding, OPHI partners with 75 federal, state, and local groups to help restore and maintain Monarch butterfly habitat in the Buckeye State.

“We get the last generation (of the Monarch)” that completes its multigenerational migration to the Upper Midwest and southern Canada after overwintering in Mexico.

The annual fall Monarch migration consists of navigating up to 3,000 miles to and from Central Mexico and coastal California, overwintering for five months and then returning to the United States and Canada in the Spring.

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