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V.I.P.’s: Very Important Pollinators

Discover the tiny animals that have a big impact!

Article by Amy Yarger, Horticulture Director at Butterfly Pavilion

Originally published in Broomfield Lifestyle

Planning For Pollinators 

Pollinators are animals that transport pollen from one flowering plant to another of the same species, supporting successful seed and fruit production. There are thousands of pollinators in Colorado from bumblebees to soldier beetles to butterflies. Many pollinators, such as honeybees, are key parts of our food system, bringing us delicious food such as chocolate and fruit. Our wild pollinators ensure that our meadows, wetlands, and forests support the processes that keep these ecosystems (and us!) alive. 

Yet, a staggering forty percent of pollinators in North America are at risk of extinction. With declines in global insect populations, protecting pollinators, and all invertebrates, animals without backbones, is even more critical today. Now it is our turn to help them, so they can continue to help us. 

This is where Butterfly Pavilion plays a key role.  As the first Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited, stand-alone, non-profit invertebrate zoo in the world, and a leader in invertebrate research, conservation, and education, Butterfly Pavilion is uniquely positioned to apply our expertise on pollinators to help protect these incredibly important creatures. Our science team works all over the world to improve pollinator habitat, from Sumatran rainforests to the dry coasts of Turks and Caicos, to the prairies and mountains of Colorado.

Butterfly Pavilion’s Pollinator District program works with communities to conserve and improve pollinator habitat. Our first Pollinator District, Baseline in Broomfield is where Butterfly Pavilion’s new state-of-the-art facility will be built, has already shown an increase of pollinators where new habitat was planted just three years ago. Flower-rich pollinator landscapes support greater biodiversity and climate resilience, supporting pollinators and other beneficial animals. 

No matter who you are, you benefit from the work of pollinators, and no matter who you are, you can make sure that these animals survive. Here are four ways you can explore how to help protect pollinators by getting involved. 

Create a pollinator habitat where you live.

If you plant it, they will come! Including native flowering plants in your existing garden or removing unused turf to plant a pollinator meadow provides food for pollinators. Even adding a few blooming pots to your patio can connect smaller flowering patches to larger habitats. Many pollinators also require plants that provide shelter and space to raise their young, so planting swaths of native grasses and shrubs adds the protection they need. Finally, reducing your chemical use results in healthier spaces for these vulnerable animals. And once you have transformed your own landscape, why not get your neighbors on board?

Join Butterfly Pavilion’s efforts to conserve pollinators!

Educate yourself about invertebrates and how you can help conserve and protect them by visiting and engaging with Butterfly Pavilion. Every visit supports our global and local pollinator conservation efforts and offers the opportunity to understand these “ecosystem heroes” better. You can experience graceful tropical butterflies or see a honeybee hive in action, or even learn about pollinator habitat gardening in our outdoor gardens. And that’s just the first step of your pollinator conservation journey; Butterfly Pavilion offers classes, programs, volunteer opportunities, and training in how to help pollinators and other invertebrates. 

Support open space and natural areas in your community.

Colorado offers exceptional natural experiences close to where people live and work; this promotes healthy lifestyles and more participation in our local communities. These open spaces and parks can also provide key food, shelter, and reproductive resources for pollinators and other wildlife. If you are a frequent visitor to your local open spaces, consider supporting volunteer efforts to restore habitat or sharing your appreciation with your local open space board. When we recognize all that these open spaces do for us, our communities are more likely to invest in stewardship, and these habitats thrive for future generations.

Become a community scientist.

Pollinators are like potato chips – once you get started with these fascinating animals, you can’t stop! For people who want to learn more, Butterfly Pavilion offers multiple community science projects, which offer avenues to actively contribute to the scientific understanding of these small but mighty creatures. If you like butterflies, the Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network might interest you. If you want to restore pollinator habitat, you can try our Urban Prairies Project. These projects range in commitment, training, and types of activities, so there’s always a project for you!