AUSTIN — In support of Texas’ second statewide Pollinator BioBlitz, organizations and sites around the state will soon be hosting a variety of events to get people outdoors to observe pollinators of all types in yards, natural areas, gardens, parks and community centers. Of course, you don’t have to visit a particular site to participate, your very own yard or green space will do.
Thanks to the success of last year’s BioBlitz, this very special event has been extended to two weeks, Sept. 23 — Oct. 8, 2017. This larger timeframe will allow students, citizen-scientists and outdoor enthusiasts of all ages to increase the amount of data collected during the peak of fall migration and focus greater attention on the critical habitat needs of Monarchs and native pollinators across the state.
The BioBlitz is designed to be fun for all ages, with no experience required. Participants are simply asked to look for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, and nectar-producing plants; photograph or take video of them; and share their discoveries online via Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #TXPollinators.
Plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, so observers are encouraged to post what they know. For example, “Small bee on sunflower at Bryan Elementary, Mission, Texas” is fine. Participants who would like to take their experience to the next level are encouraged to sign up and record their observations in the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Project through the iNaturalist application on their phones or home computers (www.inaturalist.org/projects/2017-texas-pollinator-bioblitz). There is no cost to participate and the only tools needed are a camera or smartphone, plus internet access.
“The monarch, our state butterfly and symbol for the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz, is one of the most beautiful and recognizable insects on Earth,” explained Ben Hutchins, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invertebrate biologist. “Unfortunately, monarch populations have declined dramatically over the last 20 years due to loss of overwintering habitat, loss of nectar plants, and disappearance of milkweeds, on which monarch caterpillars feed. And the monarch tells us a lot about the health of other pollinators too, like the 1000 native bee species that call Texas home. We all depend on the services that these animals provide.”
In addition to the Monarch, 30 species of pollinators have been designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Native butterflies, bees and moths, along with bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies and beetles, are essential to healthy ecosystems and sustain native plant species, human food crops and crops for livestock. To learn more about the importance of pollinators, sign up to be counted, and locate events across the state, visit the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/pollinators. Sign up for daily challenges that will add to the excitement as everyone works together to increase awareness of our pollinators and the availability of their habitat.
It’s easy to get involved. Individuals and families, schools and clubs are all asked to Join, Observe, Identify and Share, Sept. 23 – Oct. 8, 2017, which signals the start of butterfly migration season in Texas. At this time of year, cooler temperatures across the state also alert bees to eat as much as they can before hibernation begins, so it’s the perfect time to photograph, post and record all of the insects you see, while enjoying the great outdoors.
To view a video news report about the Pollinator BioBlitz, visit https://youtu.be/3vy6Ng8xVaE.