You have to Connect to Protect!

The buzz surrounding our declining pollinators keeps getting louder and louder. The recently developed UGA Public Service and Outreach program, Connect to Protect, joins the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership (GAPP) in spreading the word about the loss of our native insect diversity and providing ways to get involved. Like GAPP, Connect to Protect focuses on the opportunity that our urban areas provide for constructing pollinator habitats. The idea is to create a connected network of beautifully designed and ecologically minded landscapes within our communities. Using native plants in our landscapes acknowledges the coevolutionary relationships that have developed among plants and their insect partners over thousands of years. As a result of these partnerships, many insects have high specificity to breed or feed only on particular native plant species or families. Increasing the diversity within our landscapes can create dramatic expressions of color and texture while providing resources for wildlife. The hope is to create corridors of native plant gardens through our urban environments.

Education is the other crucial piece of the pollinator conservation puzzle. What better way to ensure a future for our ecologically crucial insects than to teach children about the fantastic world of pollination biology? Connect to Protect organizes hands-on educational programs for elementary-aged children to learn in an informal environment while getting their hands dirty. Planting pollinator gardens at schools creates accountability with garden maintenance while providing an introduction into the various career paths that biological science offers. Installation of native gardens, coupled with education programs ensures that our communities are aware of the plight of pollinators and have ways to get involved that are both fun and ecologically beneficial.

This is a call to arms! Getting involved in conservation does not require a degree in biology, nor does it require large tracts of land. We can no longer rely solely on our dwindling wildlands to support insect and plant diversity. Small pockets of native plants have the power to transform our neighborhoods into ecological havens and change the way people think about our landscapes. By focusing on the inextricable relationship between plants and pollinators, the Connect to Protect program advocates for increasing both plant and insect diversity in our expanding urban areas.

Visit the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia for the Connect to Protect Native Plant Sale. A variety of native wildflowers, grasses, and forbs will be for sale on October 6th, 7th, and 8th and October 13th, 14th, 15th.

Get involved, plant a garden, and spread the word!

Guest Blog written by: Lauren Muller, UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. M.S. Candidate, Horticulture

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Is your Milkweed native?

The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosts Science Cafe, a series of informal science based talks that encourage the public to engage with speakers on important topics. This years series focuses on pollinators and their conservation, and highlights several important pollinator related projects and the researchers behind them.

Today we are highlighting Dr Jaret Daniels  an Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Florida  who spoke at the Gardens on Monarch butterfly conservation. Monarch butterflies are some of the most iconic species of butterfly in North America, primarily because of their enigmatic coloring and their fascinating migratory patterns. However due to declining habitat, numbers of Monarchs have been decreasing.

In his presentation, along with outlining  overall habitat decline, Daniels pointed out one of the other threats to Monarch butterflies is non-native milkweed. Daniel informed the audience that planting tropical milkweed could cause populations of Monarchs to persist longer into the cooler months, causing them to freeze in a cold Atlanta winter, rather than migrating south for overwintering in warmer climates.

Instead native milkweed species such as Asclepias tuberosa and Asclepias incarnata are excellent caterpillar host plants, and nectar plants for adult butterflies. These types of milkweed provide forage and nesting for Monarchs, and are encouraged in plantings of pollinator gardens.

Additionally Daniels encourages gardeners to vet local milkweed sources, and be sure your native milkweed is pesticide free. This is because some systemic pesticides can remain in the plant, and be transferred to Monarch caterpillars and adults.

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Monarchs overwinter at El Rosario Monarch Sanctuary. Flickr: Heather Spaulding

 

Daniels talk fostered a clearer understanding of the biology and conservation issues related to one of North America’s most famous pollinators. For more information on Dr. Jaret Daniels research and scientific lepidopterian interests you can visit his academic page here.

 

 

Co-blogged by GAPP + Jataysia Daniels, Greening Youth Foundation & Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Intern!

Spring Plant Sales

Hold onto your gardening hats! Spring has sprung, and the native plant sales have started.

If you are looking to spruce up your existing pollinator garden, or create a new one this spring, check out this list of native plant sales in and around Atlanta. Looks like the remaining dates, focus on plant sales in Gwinnett, Canton and at GSU.  Have fun picking out new plants for your greenspace, and if your stuck for ideas, visit the GAPP plant species spotlight page for some important native pollinator plant species.