“Insects, worms and other small animals that carry out vital functions for life on earth have declined by 45 percent on average over 35 years, threatening human health, water quality and food supplies…”
-Steve Connor, “Vital invertebrates decline by 45 per cent, study finds,” independent.co.uk, July 2014.
The insect decline around the world is alarmingly fast and somewhat dangerous, several pollinating species are declining exponentially which threatens our crops and plants. My idea for this project was to create a habitat for many different species that either migrate to the Midwest such as monarch butterflies or help our crops such as honeybees or orchard bees. This habitat will include many things, over all it will be a resting place for the insects as well as a habitat for reproduction, nesting and feeding.
My goal for this project is to make a lasting insect habitat that will somewhat increase the insect population in some of the state trails in Wisconsin, as well as make the visitors of the parks aware of the insect decline issue. This project will be a long-term awareness project as well as a project that gives forth to the natural world and wildlife in the state.
My main goal is to spread awareness about the issue, as well to give a helping hand and to move one step forward to change. We know about 900,000- 1,000,000 insect species and an estimate of 2 to 3 millions are still unknown to us. According to the United states Department of agriculture, “about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce”.
To put it in perspective, according to the US Department of agriculture “one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators”. The process of pollination is when an insect pollinator visits as flower in search for food and during that time pollinators may carry pollen in their bodies and accidently brush against the flowers reproductive system and causing the plant to be pollinated. 90 percent of flowering plants need animal pollinators to reproduce and one third of human food crops as well, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
There are a vast number of animal pollinators; the ones I want to specifically target in this project are butterflies, moths and bees.
Bees are one of the most important pollinators, and not many know Honeybees are Wisconsin’s state insects; they are also official state symbols for seventeen states. Honeybees live in hives; the hives can be populated by at least 80,000 individual bees. A queen be is the head of the hive and will lie over 1,500 eggs per day. A handful of male bees to fertilize the queen bee and the rest are female and male working bees. The youngest generations of bees are the young bees, those help to maintain the hive and care for eggs and larvae as well as attend the queen bee and the fertilizing males. The older workers are the ones that gather nectar and go from flower to flower and collect pollen, water and food for the hive.
Working bees have an extra stomach to collect anything necessary; there is also evidence that the honeybee “dances” to communicate where the location of the pollen is to other worker bees. The worker bees live for about 6 weeks. Honeybees are born in fall and survive until the next spring. (State symbols USA). Evolution plays a major part in insect lives, honeybees have been unchanged for 30 million years and have been recorded to exist 40 million years ago. Many efforts have been out in effect to promote the health of Honeybees and other pollinators. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/Pollinator%20Health%20Strategy%202015.pdf ).
More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields as stated in the United States Department of agriculture website, this means that we should make the greatest effort that we can to increase the population of bees such as honey bees or orchard bees, the greatest problem that decreases the number of animal pollinators is loss of habitat, contaminants and certain parasites.
There are also many other species of bees that contribute to the pollination process and that I am targeting with my habitat such as bumble bees, there about 257 different species of bumble bees in the world, just like honeybees, bumble bees feed of the nectar of flower and since the flower population is decreasing hand in hand with the decrease of the animal pollinator population, bumble bees are also in an exponential decrease.
Other pollinators that I would like to target are butterflies; more specifically monarch butterflies since this species of butterfly has been decreasing very exponentially hitting the lowest point this past couple years. Butterflies in general are part of the animal pollinator family and the process of pollinating a flower is equal as the bee’s process. Butterflies go through a life cycle called metamorphosis, this metamorphosis or life cycle of butterflies has four cycles, eggs, larvae, caterpillars and for the end of the cycle they become butterflies.
Scientist estimate about 15 thousand to 20 thousand different species of butterflies, while my habitat will be a resting place and feeding place for many butterfly species, I would like to point out a certain species; those are monarch butterflies, for many years me and my mom had this obsession with monarch butterflies, their migration from country to country and they beautiful wings, we basically saw ourselves as this specific species, traveling from point to point but growing and living an ongoing lifecycle. Monarch butterflies are one of the most interesting species of butterflies, they migrate sometimes over 2,800 miles a year, this migration corridor goes usually from Canada and the upper Midwest to the warm forest of Mexico where the monarch butterflies hibernate from the extreme cold climates of the upper north American continent.
According to Worldwildlife.org, “The monarch butterfly exhibits the most highly evolved migration pattern of any known species of butterfly or moth and perhaps any known insect. One of the biggest problems monarch butterflies are suffering is habitat loss, in the US, monarchs are in need of places to reproduce and feed and the use of herbicides is one of the causes that decreases the availability of their primary food source which are milkweeds. Other factors that contribute to the decrease of monarch butterflies; is climate change since weather plays a great factor in the migration of monarchs. The less food available in the north(Canada and the Midwest), the fewer monarchs that will travel south (Mexico). There are many efforts for the development of monarch butterfly habitats, I want to become a little part of that effort as well.
Part of the butterfly family we have moths, there are more than 11,000 different species of moths in the US alone, this insects help pollinate plants as well as feed birds and bats. Caterpillars, such as corn earworm are major agricultural pesticides; moths are one of the greatest pollinators since their bodies are big and hairy as well as a big source of food for bigger animals. Strangely, moths around the world a big source of food, some countries feed off of moths. The decrease of this affects several aspects of life.
The decrease of all this insect pollinators causes more than one problem. Insects help grow our food, help flowers grow, are a food source to many other animals and creatures. The decrease of the insect population more specifically bees, moths and butterflies is alarming and threatening major key points of life for humans and other animals. Insect decrease is something everyone should be aware of and having the opportunity to help, even a little bit will eventually have a greater change in the future of this species.