The Buzz About Pollinators

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly

Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds

The monarch butterfly has gained national attention, due to a substantial decline in its population since the mid-1990’s. Over 80% of the monarch population has disappeared over the past two decades which is largely attributed to habitat loss. Similar to birds, the monarch butterfly has a two-way migration path and overwinters in the southern United States and Mexico. Coastal California and Mexico have seen increased development and deforestation causing monarch habitat loss. Also, across the United States, the use of herbicides and pesticides have negatively impacted the monarch butterfly and its habitat.

To help bring the Idaho state insect back, Boise Parks and Recreation (BPR) has made the commitment to conserve monarch habitat in the Boise area. Although adult monarchs nectar on a variety of flowering plants, milkweed is the only plant that female monarchs lay their eggs on and the only plant monarch larvae will feed on as it grows. BPR staff and volunteers have mapped existing milkweed stands throughout Boise parks and are working to protect and enhance these areas. Efforts are also underway to add milkweed to parks through planting and seeding.

To monitor the monarch butterfly in Boise's parks, BPR launched a citizen science program in the spring of 2016, called Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds. Parks, Monarchs and Milkweeds engages volunteers in the monitoring of monarch breeding activity and milkweed habitat. The data collected by volunteers is compiled for inclusion in a national database. Although there are a number of organizations monitoring monarch activity, BPR chose to submit its data to the Xerces Society, which is located in Portland, OR, and focused on the western monarch.

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Population decline seems to be an unfortunate theme these days with the world's wildlife, and is especially true of our pollinators. Pollinator numbers have really taken a hit in the last half century, with some species such as the monarch butterfly dropping in population by as much as 80%.

So what is a pollinator and why is their decline a concern? There are over 400 hundred pollinator species in Idaho, consisting of both managed and non-managed bee species, butterflies and moths, beetles and flies, and vertebrate pollinator species such as bats and birds. All of which, play an important role in the reproduction of roughly 300,000 plants worldwide, and are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.

Boise Parks and Recreation understands the importance of our local pollinators and is trying to do its part to aid in their conservation. This includes the development of a number of formal pollinator gardens, implementation and protection of informal pollinator areas in parks and public right of ways, as well as the adoption of a robust Integrated Pest Management Program which guides the department on controlling weeds and pests in an environmentally responsible way.

Boise Pollinator Gardens

Pollinator Posse

We are looking for some pollinator champions to help us care for these important areas. Through regularly scheduled work days, participants will help plant new pollinator plants as needed, add mulch to planting beds, remove weeds and monitor for pollinator use.

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Woman planing in a pollinator garden
Pollinator Garden

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