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Pollinators of Wisconsin

Learn How to Help Wisconsin Pollinator Populations for a Blooming Ecosystem

by Camila Cruz, age 15

Many people undervalue our pollinators, but about 87% of flowering plants worldwide depend on them. And there are many ways we can help support them, from letting lawns grow to avoiding pesticides.

Pollinators are creatures that go from plant to plant to consume nectar and pollen. In doing this, they spread the pollen, helping plants reproduce. Pollen is necessary to fertilize plants. Some of the most popular pollinators in North America are hummingbirds, moths, flower flies, beetles, bees, butterflies, and, in the southwestern parts of the U.S. and Mexico, nectar-feeding bats.

Pollinators are very important to the environment and ecosystem. In the U.S., around 150 food crops depend on pollinators. Unfortunately, the population of pollinators is decreasing because of habitat loss, pests, nutritional deficiency, insecticides, and extreme weather events. [Read More]

Non-Native Honeybee Pollination May Decrease the Quality of Seeds Over Time

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 13

Recently, researchers have observed that the quality of seeds from flowers pollinated by honeybees is decreasing. Pollinators hunt for flowers in search of nectar and pollen. They are important to the food system since they help produce seeds for the ecosystem.

The seeds’ poor outcome could be because honeybees tend to spend their time going from flower to flower within the same plant, transferring pollen back into itself and resulting in inbred seeds. The study was conducted by ecologists Joshua Kohn and Dillion Travis from the University of California.

The bees that were most prominent in the study were honeybees that are not native to the United States. Non-native species are outnumbering native species of pollinators. The study showed that non-native pollinators took pollen away from native plant species and spread it to other plants of the same species, resulting in negative outcomes for native plants. [Read More]

Moths Are the Pollinators of the Night

by Melanie Bautista, age16

An accidental discovery by researchers at the University of Denmark found that moths pollinate a third of red clover flowers.

The head of the project, Jamie Alison researches insects that pollinate plants. Alison and his team of researchers were trying to study more about bees and how the red clover got pollinated. Instead, they found that moths play a huge part in the pollination process.

The research group set up 15 time-lapse cameras in the Swiss Alps, where red clovers are found. This made it easier for researchers to keep track of pollinators' visits. From June to August 2021 the cameras captured 36 red clover flowers. Nine of the cameras took images in the afternoon and again at night. The other six 6 cameras snapped photos every 5 minutes. [Read More]

Citizen Scientists Track Hummingbirds in Wisconsin

by Camila Cruz, age 14

You should consider yourself lucky if you see a hummingbird, and especially lucky if they are close enough for you to hear them.

The noise of a hummingbird comes from its wings, which move very fast. A hummingbird’s wings move about 75 times per second.

Cynthia Bridge, founder of the Western Great Lakes Hummingbird Project, is one of three hummingbird banders in Wisconsin. “They are the most incredible to experience when they hover near your head in the garden, where you can hear the humming of their wings,” she said. [Read More]

Key Wisconsin Pollinator Species Lands on Federal Endangered List

by Eleanor Pleasnik, age 13

The humble bumble bee may be small in size but its influence on our environment is huge. But one bee in particular, the rusty patched bumble bee, is now on the federal Endangered Species list. This bee is native to Wisconsin and other areas of the upper Midwest. Over the past two decades, rusty-patched bees have decreased by 90%. Very few of them are found roaming in backyards these d

The rusty patched bumble bee was once found in over 20 states, but now this species occupies only a small region of Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, Minnesota, and northern Illinois. Among these states, only Minnesota has taken steps to protect this disappearing spec

Bee specialist, Jay Watson, says homeowners can play a big role in maintaining the number of bees. He states that anyone with a yard is “hugely important” especially considering that several yards together are technically an ecosys [Read More]

You Can Find the Beautiful Ruby-Throated Hummingbird in Your Own Backyard

by Sofia Zapata, age 12

Have you seen any Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flying in your neighborhood recently? They are commonly seen in Wisconsin, but usually only during the warmer months. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only breeding hummingbird in eastern North America. In the bright sun, these beautiful, tiny, precision-flying birds sparkle like gems, then dart away to their next food source.

A Ruby-throated Hummingbird has fascinating attributes that make their tiny physical futures unique. Their wings flap up to 55 times a second at a relaxed pace. However, when a hummingbird increases their speed while moving forward, they flap 75 times a second. The wings of this hummingbird aren’t the only things that go at a fast pace. The tiny hearts of these birds beat 225 times per minute and can increase to 1,250 beats per minute. Compared to hummingbirds, the human heart averages from 60-100 bpm. This is to put the physical abilities of the ruby-throated hummingbirds into perspective. [Read More]

Monarch Butterflies Are Now the Red List of Threatened Species

by Hanna Eyobed, age 17

Karen Oberhauser, one of the world’s top experts on monarch butterflies, has always pushed for greater awareness of the risks they face. That’s why she thinks it could be a good thing that monarchs were declared endangered in July. “Certainly it’s negative that monarchs have reached this point where they need to be listed. But it’s positive that they have this recognition and that, hopefully, this will bring more people on board to do what we can to preserve monarchs.”

Madison residents can help by planting the only food migratory monarch butterflies can eat as caterpillars: milkweed. Sam Harrington has been very impactful in the Madison community, she is a climate journalist who began making a difference in 2017, when she decided to put her parents’ lawn in Middleton to use by planting a quarter of an acre with plants native to Wisconsin. She planted species like yellow coneflower, royal catchfly, butterfly weed, and purple prairie clover. She eventually planted over 60 species and documented what was planted, what survived, and what animals they attracted. “It feels like an investment in the future, one that I want to live in, one that’s full of pretty flowers and butterflies and I have a good relationship with the land of the place where I’m from.” [Read More]

Student Reporters Track Pollinators in the Driftless Area

by Samuel Garduño and Camila Cruz

A large group of student reporters from Simpson Street recently took a summer road trip to Wisconsin’s famous Driftless Area. This is an area of western Wisconsin that was never flattened or even touched by the glaciers. The region is hilly with lots of cold-water streams and beautiful scenery. For us, it was a one-day adventure meant to enhance our understanding of topics we already cover, such as pollinator species and birds of Wisconsin.

We started from our newsroom at South Towne Mall in Madison. In our caravan there were 12 students and four editors. [Read More]

Learn More About Wisconsin's Prettiest Pollinators

by Max Moreno Lopez, age 9

Did you know butterflies have an important role in pollinating flowers? They especially like flowers that have a strong scent, contain certain colors such as red and yellow, or plants with plenty of nectar.

While butterflies can be easily seen in the air, they didn’t always start out this way. Butterflies begin as caterpillars. Over time, these insects undergo metamorphosis, a process in which they create a cocoon to transform into butterflies. Once they come out the cocoons, it takes time to learn and get used to flying. [read more]

The Secret Life of Pollinators

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

A plant has a lot of needs in order for it to be healthy. These needs include water, sun, and soil. Insects like the yucca moths, bumblebees, and honeybees take the pollen and nectar from plants.

In order for insects to get nectar and pollen, they need to feed on the nectar inside a plant. The pollination, yucca plants, and pollen grains are some seeds from different plants that insects take. Female yucca moth impersonators take the yucca pollen from the yucca plant and bring it to their home. However, not all moths do this.

The inside of a flower can be pretty fascinating as it has a stigma, anthers, nectar, and pollen. That's how insects are able to feed on the nectar and pollen. When a bumblebee gets nectar, the flower closes and the bee has to push open the flower. Afterwards, the bee is able to get the nectar as the pollen comes up. [Read More]

Learn About Different Pollinators!

by Abigail Gezae, age 10

Do you ever wonder how you get your honey? It comes from pollinators! Pollinators are animals that take pollen from one flower to another flower. Bees are the most well known pollinator.

Recently, bee populations have been shrinking. However, we can help. We can help bees by leaving spots in the yard for their habitats, growing flowers and trimming plants or shrubs. Leave stems somewhere on your property as many will have bee larvae in them. You can also buy honey and place it somewhere visible for these insects. This can help bees make honey for themselves and for us to eat.

Bees are one type of pollinator, but there are other types such as Hummingbirds. Similar to bees, when they land on plants to collect nectar, they may end up taking some pollen from a plant. As they travel to other plant, this pollen is distributed and helps fertilize surrounding areas. [Read More]

Free Native Plants Available for Schools and Community Projects

by Camila Cruz, age 15

Is your school or community organization looking to install or expand a native plant garden? Many people these days look for ways to help the local environment, and planting native plants is a good way to start.

Well, you’re in luck. The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department is offering free native plants. The department is currently accepting applications from schools and community groups in Dane County. For more information about this program or to download the application, visit the Land & Water Resources Department website.

Native plants can help improve water quality and wildlife habitat. Plants that are native to Wisconsin tend to do better in our local growing conditions. Native plants have deep root systems, and this provides many benefits. For example, they reduce stormwater runoff and help protect nearby bodies of water. These plants are also more resistant to drought and disease. [Read More]

Birds, Bees, and Butterflies: How Butterflies Meet and Mate

by Dulce Maria Vasquez, age 14

Butterflies live for a short amount of time, which means they have to find a partner quickly.

Female butterflies only live for a few days, therefore they have to lay their eggs as soon as possible. Male butterflies come out of cocoons faster than females. This gives males an opportunity to find a mate who is newly emerged, meaning the females’ wings are flimsy and shriveled. Females and males correspond with each other based on their wing shape, color and striking patterns. Usually female butterflies are lightly colored while males are brightly colored.

Male butterflies often flap their wings: this may seem like they are showing off but in reality they’re wafting pheromones. Male butterflies mate a lot of times during their lifetime, while a female only mates at least once and then starts egg-laying. [Read More]

Local Groups Partner to Rebuild Pollinator
Habitats in Southern Wisconsin

by Leilani McNeal, age 16

A $100,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NRF) Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Conservation Fund is set to restore 1,837 acres of pollinator habitat across 12 state natural areas in southwestern Wisconsin. The land contains over a dozen at-risk pollinator species, including the regal fritillary butterfly, rusty patched bumblebees, and Karner Blue butterflies, which are all on the brink of extinction. However, with collaborative efforts from environmental statewide organizations, pollinators will see major improvements in their habitats.

The NRF is now partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, which plan to use the grant in different ways.

NRF’s WI Pollinator Protection Fund matched the aforementioned grant money as a way to incentivize private landowners to restore pollinator habitats. Since 82 percent of Wisconsin land is privately owned, the efforts work in tandem with one another. [Read More]

Monarch Butterflies are on The Endangered Species List

by Max Moreno, age 10

On July 21st, 2022 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUNC) placed the most popular butterfly, the monarch butterfly, as an endangered species. Developed in 1964 the IUCN is an organization that protects nature.

There are various reasons why they are endangered. One reason is global warming which has dried out and killed plants causing a lack of food and death from starvartion. Another dangerous thing to butterflies is the use of pesticides. It doesn't end there. In 2016, over 30 percent of butterflies were killed because of overwintering in Mexico and a snowstorm that took down trees that butterflies rested on.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that they are at risk of extinction. However, they concluded that while they are at risk, they are less endangered than other animals such as the rusty patched bumble bee. The population of monarch butterflies is fewer than 20,000 around the world. These black and orange butterflies now join the red list with cheetahs, whales, and other species. The red list is a list of every plant or creature that is going close to becoming extinct. [Read More]

How Bees Make Plants Grow

by Maya Maclin, age 10

Pollinators are very important on our Earth. You would be surprised at how much bees and pollinators help. Did you know that we need pollinators so much that flowers depend 80 percent on pollination?

Wonder where flowers come from? While water and nutrients from soil help them grow, pollinators also help too! You might not notice these small insects, but they come by and play an important role in pollination. If there were no pollinators, the human race would not be alive and the Earth would not have as many beautiful flowers as you see today.

Pollinators don’t just pollinate flowers! They also pollinate plants and vegetables. These plants include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and more. Do you enjoy tea with honey? Well, pollinators such as bees are responsible for honey production! [Read More]

Monarch Populations in Sharp Decline Worldwide

by Francesco Dale, age 13

The monarch butterfly is possibly going to be included on the U.S. government’s endangered species list. This issue stems from global warming, urban development, and herbicides.

Herbicides are a major factor leading to the butterflies' endangerment. Herbicides are used across agriculture and are dangerous to butterflies due to their toxic chemicals. Milkweed is the butterfly's primary source of food. Milkweed is often coated in herbicides that the monarch caterpillars eat, thus killing them before they become butterflies. [Read More]

Cómo las abejas hacen crecer las plantas

por Maya Maclin, 10 años

Polinizadores son muy importantes en nuestra Tierra. Te sorprendería lo mucho que ayudan las abejas y los polinizadores. ¿Sabías que necesitamos tanto a los polinizadores que las flores dependen en un 80 por ciento de la polinización?

¿Te preguntas de dónde vienen las flores? Mientras que el agua y los nutrientes del suelo los ayudan a crecer, ¡los polinizadores también ayudan! Es posible que no notes estos pequeños insectos, pero vienen y juegan un papel importante en la polinización. Si no hubiera polinizadores, la raza humana no estaría viva y la Tierra no tendría tantas flores hermosas como las que ves hoy.

¡Los polinizadores no solo polinizan las flores! También polinizan plantas y vegetales. Estas plantas incluyen arándanos, fresas, frambuesas y más. ¿Te gusta el té con miel? Bueno, ¡los polinizadores como las abejas son responsables de la producción de miel! [Read More]

Bee Fuzz Makes an Amazing Lubricant — by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13

The summer is filled with tons of bees everywhere. This means there will be lots of good and sweet honey for people to enjoy. [Read More]

Why Do Butterflies Migrate? — by Abigail Gezae, age 9

Have you seen a big group of butterflies flying around? Do you know why? It might be because they are migrating. [Read More]

The Arduous Life of Monarch Butterflies — by Sol-Saray, age 10

Did you know that it takes three generations of monarch butterflies to get from Wisconsin to Mexico in a year? It's incredible how long these little butterflies can fly! [Read More]

Discover the Elegant Beauty of the Glasswing Butterfly — by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 11

Did you know there is a butterfly with see-through wings? If you haven't heard about it yet, then you are about to learn of the glasswing butterfly [Read More]