There is no disputing that monarch butterflies and other pollinators (nature’s little things) are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. The Xerces Society recently reported that the western migratory population of monarch butterflies (“monarchs”) is headed for an all-time low this fall/winter.
According to an article by Emma Pelton on this conservation organization’s website, we may see fewer than 10,000 monarchs overwintering in California in 2020-21, a significant decline from the low numbers of the last two years where the total hovered just under 30,000 monarchs. Pelton writes that these numbers are a tiny fraction of the millions of monarchs that likely visited overwintering sites in the 1980s and the hundreds of thousands of monarchs that graced California’s coast as recently as the mid-2010s.
In describing its Pollinator Conservation Program, the Xerces Society notes that more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species are dependent on pollinators. This science-based conservation organization also emphasizes that pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems, with fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination providing a major part of the diet of 25% of all birds, and of mammals ranging from voles to grizzly bears.
The four simple steps to Bring Back the Pollinators outlined by the Xerces Society are encouraged to be taken by each of us: (1) grow pollinator-friendly flowers; (2) avoid pesticides, especially insecticides; (3) provide nest sites, including caterpillar host plants, like milkweed for butterflies; and (4) spreading the word to others. Over ten thousand people have already signed the Society’s pledge to protect pollinators.
The Environmental Defense Fund also deserves praise for its program to restore monarch habitat. Its goal is to restore 1.5 million acres of monarch habitat in 10 years. One acre can provide a home for up to 70 butterflies.
And Monarch Watch, a nonprofit eduction, conservation and research program based at the University of Kansas, offers classroom science projects for children of all ages. This organization’s Milkweed Market shop is an on-line way to order milkweed plants for particular eco-regions of the United States.
Further, the widespread planting of herbicide tolerant crops by Industrial Ag and the intensive farming of mono-crops is a fundamental reason for the rapid loss of habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. Friends of the Earth, which works to protect pollinators through its beeaction.org, has mounted a campaign to phase out the use by big Ag of toxic neonics and other bee-toxic pesticides, including glyphosate and chlorpyrifos.
Noting that a major U.S. food retailer — Giant Eagle — has committed to eliminate use of pollinator-toxic neonics in its produce supply chain, Friends of the Earth is asking supporters to sign an action letter to Kroger Company CEO Rodney McMellen, demanding that his company stops carrying products grown with bee-killing pesticides.
Kroger, the largest traditional grocery chain in the U.S., received a “D” in Friends of the Earth’s Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard ranking the largest 25 U.S. grocery retailers on their efforts to protect pollinators from toxic pesticides. Kroger’s revenue for fiscal year 2019 was $121.16 billion from operating 2,752 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, as noted on its Wikipedia page.
And as a final note, it’s always worth considering a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share in a small family farm that takes pride in growing a variety of crops while caring for the health of its soil, ecosystem and its farm share members. An agriculture in harmony with nature and the protection of pollinators goes hand-in-hand with biodiversity through an agriculture rooted in polyculture, not industrial agriculture’s single crop monoculture.
(Frank W. Barrie, 12/2/20)