If you read this blog, I’m assuming you care about the environment. And those of us that care for the environment are mostly aware that bees and butterflies have been in trouble for quite some time. They not only contribute to pollinating our food, regulating our ecosystems, and increasing the global economy, but they contribute so much to the natural beauty and splendor of our planet as well. Could you imagine how dull the world would be if we lost the vibrancy of flowers? If you never saw a bee or butterfly floating and buzzing around your garden in the height of summer? It would be a huge loss if these precious pollinators disappeared from our world.
I went to the Butterfly Sanctuary last year in Scottsdale, Arizona and was just blown away at the beauty of a humid room full of plants and busy butterflies who were being protected and cared for. I learned a lot about the life cycle of these creatures and why it’s so important to protect them.
These small but mighty creatures need our assistance to thrive, and it got me thinking about how we can really make a difference for them. It’s crazy that we live in a world where greed and consumerism comes before the health of our earth and preserving our coexistence with other creatures; but it is important to realize that even the smallest gesture matters and you CAN do a lot to help!
Why We Need Bees
There are over 20,000 known species of bees. While most honeybees are kept by beekeepers, the rest are wild, including 25 species of bumblebee and 220 types of solitary bee, including Mason Bees, Leafcutter Bees, and Mining Bees. Bees are an important keystone species that play a crucial roll in the environment, farming practices, and even the global economy. Bees transfer pollen between flowering plants and keep the cycle of life turning. They pollinate many types of flowers and crops worldwide, increasing yield for farmers and contributing to a healthier crop. 90% of global crop varieties, including apples, pears, coffee, vanilla, and cotton as well as 80% of wildflowers in Europe are visited by bees. Although there are other pollinators, bees are the most effective because they gather pollen to stock their nests, and therefore visit the most plants on a regular and consistent basis. Without them, it’s easy to say that our food diversity and the beauty of the earth would both suffer. In the worst case scenario where bees die out completely, its safe to say it would trigger a mass extinction of many species, perhaps including our own.
Why We Need Butterflies
Butterflies are productive pollinators and also act as natural pest control, as certain species feed on aphids and other small bugs that harm plants. They are also an important part of the food chain for birds, bats, and other animals. There are over 20,000 butterfly species, and their presence signifies a healthy ecosystem and increased biodiversity. Not to mention that their stunning beauty contributes to a more colorful and enjoyable world.
A loss of pollinators could lead to lower availability of fruit and vegetables as well as wild plants that provide essential micro nutrients for human diets. It is in our own best interest, and the interest of the world, that we care for all life on our planet.
Why Do They Need Our Help?
Both bees and butterflies are suffering from a loss of food and habitat, exposure to pesticides, and the effects of climate change. Beehives in Europe and the U.S. have suffered hive losses of at least 30% in recent years, and various studies have found a sharp decrease in the number of wild bees as well. Butterfly species are rapidly disappearing too, and many are endangered. Monarch butterflies, known for their great migration in the fall from North America to Mexico, have been dwindling in numbers over the past 20 years. It is believed that there has been an 80% decrease in population, and the migration has gone from several hundred thousand Monarchs to as few as 2,000 in 2020. I for one find this absolutely heart breaking. The western butterfly population in general has declined at least 1.6% per year, largely due to fall warming. Three main factors are contributing to the loss of bees and butterflies:
- Loss of biodiversity: Monoculture farming contributes to loss of plant biodiversity. Each butterfly species is picky and will only lay eggs or feed on certain plants. So as biodiversity decreases, so does the chance of butterfly reproduction and survival. As more natural land is lost to infrastructure and housing, biodiversity and opportunity for bees and butterflies to thrive is also lost.
- Climate change: Rising temperatures and other seasonal changes are confusing to pollinators and destroys their habitats as well as lowers their chances to feed on pollen.
- Exposure to pesticides and herbicides: The use of these chemicals kill butterflies and bees and weakens their colonies.
In their overwintering groves, there were once so many monarchs that the sound of their wings was described as a rippling stream or summer rain.BiologicalDiversity.com
How Can We Help?
There are several ways you can help bees and butterflies as they begin to wake from their winter slumber and journey out into the world in spring and summer. Even a small contribution can make a BIG difference. Hope is not lost! If we all play a roll, we can help our pollinators regain numbers in the coming years.
- Plant a garden and avoid using pesticides, especially neonicotinoids. (Even if you don’t have a yard or a lot of space, placing a few well cared for plants on your balcony or around your property can help!)
- Milkweed has flowers that all pollinators love, but it is especially good for butterflies to lay their eggs on. It is the ONLY host plant for monarchs.
- Butterflies like citrus, snapdragons, crepe myrtle, wattles, tea trees, bottlebrushes, lavender, banksia, daisies, and verbena.
- Caterpillars eat leaves, fruits, and veggies depending on species. They enjoy oak, milkweed, aspen, cherry, violets, willow, elm, and fennel. They are less picky then once they become butterflies.
- Bees love culinary herbs such as sage, thyme, chives, dill, basil, and lavender, and like flowers such as sunflowers, alyssum, verbena, zinnias, lilacs, hyacinths, and pansys. Most flowers will attract bees! They also enjoy berries, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, melon, and squash.
- Utilizing local plants in your garden is especially effective at aiding the types of butterflies and bees in your area. Do some research and see what would be best to include in your garden and make the biggest impact.
- Use your vote to battle agro-chemical companies, support legislature that bans dangerous pesticides, and vote for politicians that care about the environment.
- Vote with your dollar as well. Buy organic and non-gmo foods that were produced without pesticides. Supporting the growing methods of these farmers is extremely important. Purchase only local honey and beeswax products to support local beekeepers and ensure that you’re obtaining these products from smaller companies who really care for their bees. Purchase products from companies that support and give back to the environment.
- Teach your children the importance of caring for the environment and to be kind to creatures of all shapes and sizes.
- Put a water dropper, a shallow bowl of sugar water, or a bird bath with stones for butterflies and bees to land on in your yard or garden. When I visited the Butterfly Sanctuary in Scottsdale, they had bowls of fruit out for the butterflies which they really seemed to enjoy. (: This helps give the bees and butterflies extra energy and food sources when they are running low.
- Plant trees and shrubs to provide pollinators with shelter.
- Visit butterfly pavilions and local beekeepers to give them your support and educate yourself about them. (Also a fun, informative way to teach your children about their importance!)
- Donate to nonprofits that are committed to making a difference for bees and butterflies.
- Buy some jewelry from Project Honey Bees! Adopt a bee with every purchase, and show off your love for honeybee conservation.
- Adopt a monarch butterfly from WWF, contribute to conservation, and receive some rad symbolic gifts.
It can be very freeing to step into your strength and realize that you DO have a say in the future of this world and can make a difference in the health and lives of other creatures. The state of the world is scary, but we decide the future. This spring and summer, keep butterflies and bees in mind and do what you can to help them thrive. They do so much to support our existence, and they deserve our support in return. ❤
Thanks to all the great websites I got my research from: