Celebrating the essential partnership
of birds, bees and bugs with agriculture and government agencies

Although the official designation of Idaho Pollinator Week is June 19-25 this year, the essential partnership between birds, bugs and bees with agriculture and government agencies is celebrated year-round. ITD continually promotes awareness of pollinators and pollinator habitats. The week celebrates pollinators and spreads the word about what you can do to protect them.

A decade ago, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable services to our ecosystem provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles.

Pollinator species such as birds and insects are increasingly recognized as essential partners of farmers and ranchers in producing much of our food supply. Because Idaho is so agriculturally dependent, that partnership is especially important in the Gem State.

Here are a few links: “Wings of Life” and  The Beauty of Pollination - Moving Art

ITD is involved in several activities that promote pollinators/pollinator habitats, most notably the Operation Wildflower Program, where districts distribute native forbs to volunteer groups to seed along selected roadsides, rights of way, or slopes.

District 1 has been instrumental in the program. Last year, D1 coordinated with more than 70 volunteer groups and distributed more than 360 lbs. of seed for roadside beautification projects — 30 percent of the district’s total road miles were seeded with native wildflowers in 2016.

The volunteer Adopt A Highway Program is another example, where groups clean litter from sections of roads, removing trash and making the area more desirable for bugs and bees to pollinate.

In addition, ITD provides native seed mix prescriptions for re-vegetation activities following maintenance and construction projects.

There are specific examples, like the Price Road Wetland Mitigation project (pictured above) near McCammon in District 5. The site was established in 2007 as part of U.S. 30 GARVEE construction, and was planted with native plant species in 2008 and 2009. After about eight years, the 22-acre site has evolved into a sanctuary that supports several birds and mammal species as well as provides several flowering species beneficial to pollinators, including penstemon, wild rose, goldenrod, yarrow, milkweed, dogwood, hawthorne and willows. 

Pollination also plays a vital role in the health of our national forests and grasslands, which provide forage, fish and wildlife, timber, water, mineral resources and recreational opportunities, as well as enhanced economic development opportunities for communities.

The Pollinator Partnership celebrates National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior. ITD also takes part in partnership projects with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Idaho Fish & Game, and other state and federal agencies.

Idaho’s Pollinator Connection
by Beth Waterbury, Idaho Fish & Game – Salmon Region

Idaho is home to an abundance and diversity of insect pollinators that are central to the health of our environment. Beetles, flies, wasps, moths, butterflies—and especially bees—all contribute essential pollination services that sustain our wildland plant communities and food production systems. Awareness and appreciation of insect pollinators is ever-increasing among Idaho’s citizens, agricultural community, and state agencies. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture recently published the Idaho Pollinator Protection Plan to create awareness of the importance of pollination to the state by both native pollinating insects and the commercial honey bee industry.  Idaho Fish & Game recently revised the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), which serves as the state’s guiding document for managing and conserving at-risk species—or Species of Greatest Conservation Need—and the habitats upon which they depend.

Beyond assessing the health of Idaho’s wildlife and habitats, the SWAP provides voluntary actions to conserve wildlife and vital habitat before they become too rare and costly to protect. A key taxonomic group addressed in the SWAP is insect pollinators, and recognizes pollinator declines as an emerging conservation issue. Of the 205 Species of Greatest Conservation Need identified in the SWAP, 22 are native bee, butterfly, and moth pollinators.

One such at-risk pollinator is the monarch butterfly, Idaho’s official state insect. With its fiery-orange and black pattern and large wingspan, the monarch is one of the most easily recognized insects in North America. Its life cycle is a complex marvel involving a lengthy migration completed “relay-style” by several generations in a single year. During their summer wanderings, female monarchs lay their eggs on the leaves of milkweeds—the sole food source for their striking yellow, white, and black-striped caterpillars. Milkweeds are the essential links of the chain that connect monarch breeding populations across North America. In 2016 and continuing in 2017, Idaho Fish and Game has been surveying for monarchs and milkweed across Idaho to map their distributions and better understand the declining trend of the western monarch population. Preliminary findings show that Idaho’s roadsides provide valuable milkweed habitat for monarch caterpillars, as well as nectar-rich wildflowers for adult butterflies. Partnerships between ITD and Idaho Fish & Game to create “pollinator waystations” or seed roadsides with native flowers and grasses are effective strategies to not only support more pollinators, but will also beautify Idaho’s roadways and reduce maintenance costs.  

To learn more about native pollinators visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website for excellent resources on pollinator-friendly plant lists, habitat conservation guides, native pollinator nurseries and seed suppliers, and more. For individuals interested in citizen science projects to track and conserve pollinators, consider participating in Bumble Bee Watch or Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper online reporting websites. Both projects allow for individuals to upload photos, explore data, and help researchers determine the distribution and trends of these important and iconic pollinators.

Published 06-16-17