Pollinator Guidelines for Federal Land could be a valuable blueprint
for use on state & private land as well.
by Ted Beringer
It is difficult to overestimate the economic value of pollinators to agriculture. Honeybees and native pollinators add over $18 billion to the value of agricultural crops including oranges, grapefruit, apples, plums, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, avocados, onions, pumpkins and almonds annually not to mention the honey they produce. They also pollinate more than 80% of wildflowers and thereby critically enhancing biodiversity. Not only have honeybees been decimated by “Colony Collapse Disorder”, they are being poisoned by pesticides applied to crops during their blooming period. In addition, although Monarch butterflies are not as important agriculturally, they have also been decimated by destruction of habitat, including the decline of many varieties of milkweed that are obligate host plants for survival of their larvae. Many wildflowers can produce nectar for adult Monarchs but their larvae (caterpillars) develop from eggs the Monarch deposits exclusively on milkweed plants.
Recognizing the importance of pollinators to agriculture and to biodiversity in the environment, President Obama issued a memorandum (June 20, 2014) directing Federal departments and agencies to expand knowledge of pollinators and to increase both the quality and quantity of their habitat on federal lands. In compliance (May 11th, 2015), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of the Interior created a draft document entitled Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices For Federal Lands.
The following is a brief summary of that draft. This initiative promotes common sense actions intended to compensate for widespread destructive practices harmful to pollinators and their habitat.
1) Determining the Quality of Wildflower-rich Foraging Habitat: Effective habitats provide a variety of native flowering plants that exhibit overlapping bloom times to supply nectar and pollen during spring, summer & fall. It is imperative to modify mowing regimes to maintain wildflowers and avoid destroying pollinators while they are visiting those plants. Frequent mowing ultimately eliminates all wildflowers from the landscape.
2) Determining Important Nesting and Overwintering Sites: Since most native bees are ground nesters, they require untilled, unmulched ground that is also well drained and not compacted (especially by heavy mowing machinery). Since many native bees do not fly long distances, nest site habitat should be close to foraging habitat. For cavity-nesting bumble bees, however, queens need soft humus and loose soil, or unobstructed underground holes and tunnels to overwinter.
3) Providing host plants for butterflies and moths often requires specific plant species as larval host plants. [For example, butterflies like the Red Admiral and Comma butterfly depend upon a small number of host plants called nettles e.g. wood nettle, false nettle & Stinging Nettle. If important host plants are not available or have been destroyed, develop a planting program to reestablish the host plants. For Monarch butterflies in Kansas plant swamp milkweed, butterfly milkweed and common milkweed. The Xerxes Society also suggests Antelope horn milkweeds, tall green milkweed, Showy milkweed, Prairie milkweed and Whorled milkweed for Kansas.]
4) Restoration and Rehabilitation of Monarch Habitat includes Removal of Invasive Species: For instance, nonnative garlic mustard (containing toxins that can kill the larvae when they hatch and begin feeding on the plant) must be removed. In its place, local native seeds can be collected and utilized to reestablish native species required by pollinators. Riparian areas, including those around springs, seeps and streams, can provide diverse pollinator habitat.
5) Engaging and Educating the Public: Public education is a critical component for achieving success.
The Kansas City Zoo is now home to six endangered Orangutans from Borneo. Visitors to the zoo can enjoy interacting with Josie, Rufus, Berani, Jill, Kalijon and TK in the Orangutan Canopy at the zoo now. The Kansas City Zoo recognizes that 80% of the native habitat for orangutans has been lost in the last 20 years. Part of the reason for habitat loss has been destruction of the rainforests where orangutans live in order to plant palm trees used commercially as a source of palm oil. Palm oil is used in manufacture of everything from lotions and shampoos to pretzels and hamburger buns. The rainforest is usually burned to clear land, especially in Malasia and Indonesia and planted exclusively in palm trees. As part of the zoos effort to save these magnificent orangutans in their existing rainforest habitat, the zoo has announced that it will no longer purchase palm oil produced by these unsustainable palm plantations. All future purchases will be from certified sustainable forests only.
World Turtle Day has been sponsored by American Tortoise Rescue since the year 2000. Its purpose is to draw attention to turtles & tortoises. To view an interesting video of the Great Barrier Reef visit http://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2015/may/22/world-turtle-day-barrier-reef-preservation-tourism-queensland-video
World Migratory Bird Day, May 9-10, 2015
by Ted Beringer
With growing international appreciation that habitat must be protected across the expansive area required for migratory birds to breed, roost, and otherwise return to their summer and winter destinations, at least two major organizations were formed to protect their habitat and educate people regarding importance of habitat for survival of these birds. For this purpose, International Bird Day was created by a coalition of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in 1993. This observation day focused on flyways across the United States. We can use the Blue-winged Teal as an example of a migratory bird with far ranging habitat requirements. Although it may breed in Kansas, it can breed as far north as Canada; and, spend its winter (non-breeding) season as far south as South America. Habitat in all these locations must remain intact for the Blue-winged teal to continue thriving.
An additional initiative called the World Migratory Bird Day was created to include African-Eurasian birds and to increase global awareness of conservation and to advance environmental education. World Migratory Bird Day has been celebrated on the second weekend of May each year since 2006. For 2015 the theme is “Energy – Make it Bird Friendly”. Relevant to this theme, one must note that the aggressive destruction of the Canadian Boreal forest to exploit tar sands located there will degrade habitat for millions of migratory birds that pass through Kansas on their way to the Boreal forest to breed including Smith’s Longspur and many types of warblers and hawks.
Visit the map of events celebrating World Migratory Bird Day all across the world at http://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org/events-map.
By Ted Beringer
The founding of Earth Day is attributed to Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. In 1963 he convinced President John F. Kennedy to tour the country speaking about environmental issues. There slowly ensued widespread grassroots support that ignited in 1969 & 1970 culminating with the birth of Earth Day that began as a teach-in about environmental issues on April 22, 1970.
A month earlier peace activist John McConnell had proposed that a day be set aside to honor the Earth on the vernal equinox (March 21st) 1970. The United Nations sanctioned that proposal.
It is widely believed that grass roots support for the first Earth Day gave impetus to subsequent landmark legislation including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act & the Endangered Species Act. It may surprise some that Gaylord Nelson was also a small business advocate. But his love of nature is how many will remember him. Although Earth Day, 2015, is April 22nd, various communities may celebrate it on slightly different days.
To learn more about activities on Earth Day in Kansas, Missouri and our Nation’s Capital, visit the following links:
Earth Day Network:
Earth Day Celebration at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, April 18th:
Earth Day at the Missouri State Capitol, April 24th:
Earth Day Concert on the National Mall
by Ted Beringer
In North America the Common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a diving duck that winters across the United States but breeds in the boreal forests of Canada. For this reason, mining of tar sands that requires scouring the boreal forest is destroying critical habitat for these birds and many others that breed there. Construction of the XL pipeline intended to transport these tar sands across the United States for export will hasten this loss of habitat.
Description: The female has a milk chocolate brown head above a white neck ring.
Its eyes are pale yellow to white. It has a short, triangular black bill sometimes with a yellow to white tip. Its back, wings, and tail are slate gray. Its flanks, belly, and breast are white.
The male Common goldeneye has a greenish-black head with a dramatic golden-yellow eye as well as a conspicuous round white spot in front of each eye immediately behind its short black triangular bill. Its black back, tail and secondaries plus white flanks are easily apparent on the water.
Habitat: Their breeding habitat in North America is the boreal coniferous forest in North America with nearby lakes, rivers and bogs that have enough irregular shoreline to provide protective brood shelter. They nest in cavities in large trees especially in open-top or “bucket” cavities. They also use natural tree cavities created by broken limbs or tree cavities created by pileated woodpeckers and black woodpeckers.
Diet: In the summer they prefer ponds without fish that compete for insects or even prey on their ducklings as in the case of Northern pike. The Common goldeneye forages underwater consuming mostly crustaceans (crayfish, crabs, shrimps & amphipods) and aquatic insects (naiads of dragonflies & damselflies) as well as some mollusks (especially blue mussel). They will also consume small fishes and their eggs, marine worms, and frogs. They enjoy aquatic plants like pondweeds, spatterdock, bulrush, and wild celery.
The common goldeneye is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. However, both breeding and winter habitat of these birds has been degraded by clearance and pollution. For further information about the Common goldeneye, visit the following excellent websites:
by Ted Beringer
If you’ve been walking through the woods this early March in northeast Kansas before any leaves have appeared on the trees and long before any nectar producing flowers have begun to bloom, you might be surprised to see a butterfly. If you do, it is probably the Eastern Comma butterfly.
This butterfly has orange on the dorsal surface of both forewings and hindwings in the late winter and spring. Unlike Monarchs that migrate to this latitude only after warm weather has prompted flowers to bloom, the Comma butterfly has hibernated over the winter right here, probably under some leaf litter. Comma butterflies survive by drinking tree sap from broken branches or stumps as temperatures allow sap to flow in late winter.
There are two butterflies in this photo. Notice their scalloped wings. One butterfly has its wings spread open displaying its orange dorsal surface. The other butterfly’s wings are closed, showing only the dorsal surface decorated with an elaborate pattern of tans, browns & whites. This pattern easily camouflages the butterfly from the bark on the tree stump to which it is attached and any leaf litter around it. It is using its proboscis to drink tree sap from the stump. If you look very carefully on the underside of its hindwing, you can detect a very small white, comma-shaped mark with an expanded knob at both ends.
In the summer, Comma butterflies will also feed on rotting fruit. Nettle, wood nettle & false nettle all serve as hosts for their larvae (caterpillars).
For excellent photos of the ovum, larva (caterpillar) & pupa of the Comma butterfly visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygonia_c-album.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) Wild About Kansas photo contest is designed to showcase Kansas outdoors through the lens of photographers of all skill levels.
NEW FOR 2015: There will be an adult category for photographers age 19 and older wishing to participate.
Divided into three categories, participants can submit photos related to:
Winning entries are featured in the January/February photo issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine.
The contest is open to both residents and non-residents of Kansas, and there is no age limit.
Prizes will be awarded to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in each category, as well as one honorable mention per category.
Mail entry forms to:
Wild About Kansas
Attn: Nadia Marji
512 SE 25th Ave.
Pratt, KS 67124
For more information, e-mail Nadia Marji at email@example.com. Enter “Wild About Kansas” in the subject line.
It’s not too soon to think about Kansas streams for 2015. They will be running again soon as the ice gives way to warmer temperatures. Time to recommit to learn more or to help Kansas Streams.
Check out the Watershed Institute for valuable ideas and opportunities for you and your middle schoolers.