Conservation and Asters

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign

Ryan Conner proudly stands next to his Conservation Star Home Award sign.

This past week I had an opportunity to visit Ryan Conner in Hayward. He invited me to see the native habitat he was implementing on his land.  He owns a home and property on Grindstone Lake. Ryan received a Conservation Star Home Award for turning a sandy lawn of mowed grass into a native habitat on the lake. Frankly this is how I found his
house. Ryan had told me he had a rather large colony of asters growing. The asters led me right to his door.

While I was there I saw several species of small native bees. I also learned about species of asters which are not easy to identify. Reason why? There are over 200 species of aster in the United States.

 

Calico aster with pink centers.

Calico aster with pink centers.

Ryan pointed out that calico aster has pink disk florets. The species also has a plumed flower formation. Now I know the name of white heath aster and sky blue aster which were growing in a rather large colony.

The Monarch Butterfly Habitat has upland white aster. There are several other species of asters at the habitat and hopefully I will be better able to identify the different species more easily now. Ryan is a dedicated volunteer at the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake. He has assisted the nonprofit for nearly four years now during the summer season. He has added many native species to the Shell Lake habitat, which in time will provide more color and interest beyond the summer months. It is interesting to note that one of Ryan’s neighbors has also begun to turn his land into a native habitat for pollinators.

Without native habitat for pollinating insects such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, bats and moths there most likely would not be the plant and insect biodiversity that exists today. According to Douglas W. Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, “Up to 90 percent of all phytophagous insects are considered specialists because they have evolved in concert with no more
than a few plant lineages” (Bernays & Graham 1988). Native insects have not evolved with alien plants and most likely are unable to eat them. For homeowners who want bees to pollinate fruit trees and gardeners who want to have flowers and vegetables pollinated, it is important to plant native plant species that will invite pollinators to the back yard.

Why is Earth Day Important?

Earth Day is Every Day although many people don’t realize that we need to protect the environment for future generations.

Reason being, Nature is being assaulted on many fronts. Xerces Society founded by in 1971 is a nonprofit

Bumblebee gathering pollen on late blooming aster

Bumblebee gathering pollen on late blooming aster

organization dedicated to conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. The reality is honey bees are declining because of colony collapse disorder. According to Xerces Society, “Native bumble bees are also at risk like many plants and animals, bumbles are suffering from loss of habitat, pesticide poisoning, changing climates, and diseases that were introduced along with non-native bees. Western bumble bee, the rusty-patched bumble bee and yellow-banded bumble bee used to be very common, but their numbers have decreased by 96 percent and their range shrunk by as much as 87 percent.” The Franklin bumble bee of Oregon and CA is thought to be extinct.

In 2010 President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative (AGO) with the aim of developing an agenda for 21st-century conservation and helping Americans reconnect with our nation’s lands and waters.

According to Robert Louve, author of Last Child in the Woods, children are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder. Xeriscape Council of New Mexico, President George Radnovich states that Nature Attention Deficit applies to adults as well as children because as a whole American society is losing interest in the natural world. The natural world can live without us but we cannot live without the natural world.

Loss of habitat in three countries Canada, United States and Mexico is the main concern for monarch butterflies. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has announced that the Monarch Butterfly Migration is at risk. According to WWF A well-preserved forest ecosystem in Mexico is critical for the survival of the Monarch butterfly wintering, which has been recognized as an endangered biological phenomenon, and the first priority in world butterfly conservation. There is also concern by Lincoln Brower, Professor Emeritus of Biology at University of Florida. Brower states in the NOVA film, “Incredible Journey of the Butterflies” that the monarch is facing an endangered migration phenomena. Monarch needs native habitat and biodiversity which are declining in the United States and Canada.

Farming which used to be run by families many of which practiced good land stewardship. Now farming is mostly run as Corporate Farms. Just like people, pollinators are poisoned by pesticides. The butterfly can’t find native nectar sources when large tracks of land are now being planted with monoculture crops.  USDA is looking at the importance of pollinators. The USDA has acknowledged that we need more biodiversity if we are to have pollinators’ to produce many vegetable crops and fruit. In 2006, a Science report documented what appears to be a major decline in bees in England and The Netherlands (possibly a 30% loss in species richness since 1980), especially among specialist bees, and a corollary decline in wild plant species that require insect-pollination.

Elaine Evans author of Befriending the Bumblebee

Elaine Evans author of Befriending the Bumblebee

Elaine Evans, author of Befriending the Bumblebee, will be the speaker at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCOOCC), Hayward, WI, on April 13.  Happy Tonics, LCOOCC, Web of Learning Sustainable Living Institute and the LCOOCC Library are sponsoring the event.   

Earth Day Event 2011. Ken Parejko, author of Monarch of the Butterflies, will be the speaker. Parejko is a Professor Emeritus of Biology at Univ. of WI at Stout. He is well versed in the monarch butterfly and has pointed out that we need to protect pollinators for future generations.  Plants are dependent upon pollinators. Did you know that butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators in the world after bees?

Happy Tonics, Inc. was founded in 1999 and has been involved in conservation work on behalf of the monarch butterfly and food safety issues ever since. Visit their Web site to learn more at www.happytonics.org

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