Yesterday Gary and I attended the “Second Saturday” program about butterflies that can be found at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge. As always, we came away with more knowledge about the wonderful world around us and another reminder of the delicate balance between man and beast. Even a brief study of any living creature prompts us to look at their position in the cycle of life.
Our food supply depends on pollinators and in case you haven’t heard, we are facing a pollinator crisis. Bees are struggling to survive and many other insects are also at risk from disease, destruction of habitats, and the increasing use of pesticides. Bees, ants, wasps, and flies are major pollinators, but butterflies also play a part in the process. And butterflies are like the “canary in the coal mine”. They are sensitive to environmental changes, so their presence or absence is often an indicator of the general health of our surroundings.
Many of our staple food crops such as corn, wheat, rice, soybeans, and sorghum are wind-pollinated or self-pollinating and aren’t dependent on our little insect friends. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, keep in mind that some of your other favorite foods would disappear if we lost our pollinators. Here is just a partial list of the crops that DO need them:
- Black Eyed Peas
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Lima Beans
One of the positive points of yesterday’s workshop was that there are many things we can do as individuals to protect and even improve the habitats of our pollinators. We can plant flowers that provide food and shelter. We can refrain from using harmful chemicals in our gardens. We can leave some “wild areas” in pastures and parks. And one of my favorites: we can stop raking and burning so many of our leaves. Yes, leaves are good! There are eggs attached to some leaves and there are butterflies that hibernate in leaves. Leaves are also good for the soil, and for other insects and animals. So rake a few over to the side of the yard or under plants and leave them alone.
Of course our day would not have been complete without a walk through the butterfly garden. I was amazed by the number and variety of butterflies and other insects that we encountered within just a few minutes. And I was pleased that we were able to take some photos, despite the number of people walking around doing the same. Most of the butterflies were just too busy to be bothered by our presence.
I hope you will take time one day to visit the refuge and see the garden and the surrounding acres for yourself. This is National Wildlife Refuge Week, so it would be a perfect opportunity to visit Hagerman.