My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, June 1, 2013

National Pollinator Week - Help 'Em Live On!

Last year, while volunteering at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on their bee survey project, I realized that, not only are the non-native honeybees in trouble, so are the native bees. And the native bees are far better pollinators for native plants and many of our fruits and vegetables.

A few native bees

Some bumblebees are believed to have recently gone extinct and others are in serious trouble. And it seems we don't even know the status of many of our native bees.  As bees go, so do we, since we depend on bees for one-third of our food.  And wildlife depend on bees for most of their nuts and berries.

The staff at Malheur NWR were very interested in bees and  wanted to expand both their bee research and educational outreach about saving bees. I got very involved in all of this and helped design and produce a bee display that is now in the little museum on the refuge grounds. Parts of it can be packed up to use for booth displays. My boss on this project used some of my pictures and my research to make a series of posters on pollinators.  (We started with bees and added butterflies while I was there, and then she added honey-bees and moths, since there is also a person doing research on the moths of Malheur NWR.) I asked for, and was given the posters as files to use myself and share with others. And I worked with the Piaute Indian Summer Program by developing and presenting activities to the kids on various pollinators.

One of the pinned sweat bees

The original idea was to use some of the boxes of pinned bees with posters for the display.  I suggested we collect and dry plants bees and butterflies were using and then glue bees and butterflies I collected with a net on them.  So I carried my butterfly net, kill jar, zip lock baggies, silica gel and a drying box around with me.  I could only dry one batch of flowers a day and some I had to redo to get them to look natural so this was a slow process.  Shortly mid  summer came and all the flowers and grasses dried up, leaving me with no more materials to collect.

Collecting  flowers and setting up the drying bin  in the field

I even had to think of how to present the flowers.  I ended up making home-made play dough into bases, then arranging the cuttings in it.   At first, I decided to make the dough match the native gravel we planned to use in the bottom of the clear donation boxes. My best match involved using wine and strong tea as the liquid.  That batch sat for the two months of my various vacations and turned to some kind of unusable mush.  After that we settled on just a neutral color that came from using whole wheat flour.

One of the posters Carla made using my pictures and research

This year, I'm working at National Bison Range.  The biologists here knew of my bee work from my resume wanted me to work with  them and the regional pollinator person to develop bee survey protocols to use with the Montana Civilian Corp workers this summer.  I'll be managing the surveys and working with the kids to pin bees. We are also going to be manning Naturalist stations one day a week and I'll be helping with those activities.My other job is to work with the recreation/educational outreach director, Pat, mostly in the Visitor Center.

We used many of the posters from Malheur for the display at the Bird Festival

She received a request from Salish Kootenai College to bring a booth and some children's activities to their first annual Community Bird Day Festival, on May 23. Sh, in turn, invited me to make up a booth and children's crafts for this, and suggested using pollinators as our theme. So that was pretty easy. I  decided to let younger children make a paper bag puppet butterfly or bee while the older children could work around stations to make an origami butterfly.

I printed out information people could download off the net for display and then made a handout with links to it. We also printed out the planting list of plants for bees in this area and gave away pollinator bookmarks and mason bee houses.

At the Bird Festival  - picture by Kyle

Thursday was my one of my official days off, so I didn't go to work until after lunch.  I finished adding the title to the display, then packed everything up and drove about 40 miles to the festival site. Fortunately, I conned Kyle into riding along to "hang out".  What he actually did was help with the craft table so I could talk to visitors to the display about bees. Both the display and the craft table were really popular. Kids of all ages, and even a few college students made the Origami butterfly.  A few little kids took home a bee or butterfly puppet to make later. And we ran out of the mason bee houses.

Kyle helping with the Origami butterflies

There are other on-line resources with information and materials you can download and use. I'm also listing the Sunflower Project so you can find out about a Citizen Science Project that helps track bee populations.

The Fish & Wildlife's Site with probably all you need - from kids activities to school gardens to posters and other information  and pictures.

Polilinator Partnership- another complete site of information and resources. Be sure and check out the Education, Just for Fun,and Pollinator Week (Under Get Involved). And check out Pollinator Partnerships gallery of photos from Pollinator Week Celebrations:

Field Guides to Bees that (I think) print out as the front and back of cards. Use cardstock. These need better formatting to save paper.

The Great Sunflower Project - both a good way to learn more about bees and to contribute your own data.

The link to my dropbox file of pollinator activities and posters. I'll try to get a prettier title in there soon - one you can print out on acetate. The posters are in one PDF file.  Just print the ones you want.

Hope you can help spread the word on the plight of bees or start a project to help them during  Pollinator Week.  Boy and Girl Scouts, Master Naturalists and Summer Camp Leaders will all enjoy this. And you can probably get your library to let you build a display on pollinators and then add their books on them.