At Blank Park Zoo, we believe that our native pollinators, such as butterflies, not only provide an economic and practical value to humans, but they also have intrinsic value in their own right. That’s why we are on a mission to encourage citizens and organizations to become aware of pollinator issues and to take action to preserve them. We believe that no effort is too small and that each of us can help make a difference to protect the biodiversity around us.
Many pollinator species are declining due to a variety of reasons, including global climate change, loss of habitat and feeding resources, and some modern agricultural practices. For example, butterflies require large corridors of suitable habitat to navigate between nectar sources, and our increasing rates of development and expanding networks of roads have presented them with formidable challenges. According to Monarch Watch, butterflies lose habitat areas equivalent to the size of Illinois every 16 years – that’s an average of 2.2 million acres lost per year!
Many of Iowa’s native butterflies are listed as special concern, threatened, and endangered. The Baltimore checkerspot, Common ringlet, and Purplish copper are just three species considered as high priority for conservation need in Iowa.
Butterflies require not only connecting, high-quality swaths of habitat, but also specific types of plants that help them to feed and reproduce. Each species of butterfly has specific sets of needs these plants must meet to be used. In Iowa, the majority of our butterflies need region-specific, grassland plants. However, these plants are just as threatened as the butterflies they help – since European settlement, Iowa has lost more than 99.9 percent of its native, tall-grass prairie. Iowa butterflies and the habitats in which they live need our help.
How can you help? Starting in the spring of 2014, you can join Plant.Grow.Fly. by creating a much-needed pollinator habitat at your home, school or even place of work. Our expertly researched garden recipes will help you plant flowers and grasses that benefit local species the most. Our easy-to-follow recipes can be formed to your landscaping needs, from pet-friendly to sweet-smelling, low-budget to no expenses spared. Gardens can range from several plants in a pot to a whole backyard ecosystem. Once you register your garden with Blank Park Zoo, you can order a Plant.Grow.Fly. sign to proudly display in your new habitat, showing your support of our Midwestern pollinators.
I think we can all agree that the current decline of butterflies and bees is alarming. Our project aims to focus on the positive: each and every one of us can do our part to preserve these beautiful creatures by simply planting flowers in our yard! More to come on how to join Plant.Grow.Fly. this spring.