Outdoors: Saving bees, butterflies benefits everyone

Over the last several years I have been reading about the declining populations of bees, and in particular, honey bees. And to be honest, I wasn’t alarmed.

I mean, I’ve never really thought much about bees one way or another. If one gets in the house, I usually swat it. And if one gets a little too close to the food at a picnic, I shoo it away. But a bee here and a bee there, no big deal. Right?

Well, actually, I haven’t been seeing the big picture. The dwindling populations of bees, butterflies and some other insects is of vital interest to all humans in that these tiny flying “pests” are actually the pollinators that enable us to grow crops, fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Perhaps one of the most desirable of these pollinators to see is the monarch butterfly. And like honey bees, the population of monarchs is in trouble.

According to a survey sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, beekeepers across the U.S. lost 44 percent of honey bee colonies between April 2015 and April 2016. Reasons cited for the drastic decline are: loss of habitat and food, pesticides and the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can spread from bee colony to bee colony.

While beekeepers can take some steps to improve hives, the general public can participate in programs (formal or informal) to improve the overall habitat not only for bees, but also for butterflies like the monarch.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, numbers of monarchs have decreased significantly over the last 20 years.

Part of the problem for both bees and butterflies is the lack of food. And although it is not the total solution, we in the Midwest can increase the number of flowers we plant, providing the needed nectar. Organic gardening is recommended.

Monarchs particularly have a need for milkweed.

The Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative is seeking public involvement to collect and drop off common and swamp milkweed seed pods from established plants Sept.1 through Oct. 30 at collection stations around the state. The seeds will be used to create habitat for monarchs.

“Common and swamp milkweed is essential to the survival of monarch butterflies in Ohio,” said Marci Lininger of the USFWS. “Ohio is a priority area for monarchs.”

Most Ohio counties have a milkweed pod collection station, usually located at Soil and Water Conservation District offices. To find the location of a SWCD office, visit agri.ohio.gov/divs/SWC/SearchLocalSWCD.aspx.

For more information on OPHI or seed pod collection, call 614-416-8993 or visit www.ophi.info.

Kayak fishing: Anyone interested in the basic skills needed to fish from a kayak is encouraged to attend a free workshop provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife on Aug. 10 from 5:30-9 p.m. Equipment will be supplied.

Pre-registration is required as space is limited. No walk-ins will be admitted. Registered attendees will be provided with location and directions. Register by calling Chris Mangen at 937-347-0929, or email Christopher.Mangen@dnr.state.oh.us.

The workshop is hands-on and will take place outdoors. Dress to get wet. Items to bring include: a valid Ohio fishing license for participants over 16, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, gloves, soft-soled shoes or sandals with heel straps, towel, a dry change of clothes, drink (in plastic bottle only) and a snack.

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