HAPPY NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK! Four years ago the U.S. Senate dubbed the final week of June “National Pollinator Week” to bring attention to the issue of declining pollinator populations. Largely due to habitat loss, pollinators such as butterflies and bees have been dropping. Pollinators not only aid many plants in reproduction, but are also food for other animals. The world would be in a very sad state without them! This blog post is dedicated to sharing information about the butterflies here in our Rainforest dome, what the Academy is doing to support native pollinators and what YOU can do at home to celebrate National Pollinator Week to help preserve pollinators!
Butterflies in the Rainforest Dome
To celebrate the importance of critical pollinators in all living habitats we are turning our attention to some of the loveliest pollinators in our Rainforest exhibit, the butterflies. Our butterflies come to us all the way from beautiful Costa Rica. Cooperative butterfly farmers in Costa Rica have obtained special permits to allow them to rear native butterflies on their land.
This program helps support local farmers and encourages them to protect pollinators and their critical host plants in the surrounding rainforest. Farmers plant host plants on their land to feed caterpillars. Once the caterpillars transform to pupae the farmers collect some to send to us. Here are some pictures of Costa Rica Entomological Supply staff displaying pupa collected from local farmers:
Pupa is the name we give that tricky stage when the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful winged butterfly. This transformation takes place inside a protective casing called the chrysalis. The chrysalis keeps the soon to emerge butterflies safe as they are shipped to the Academy each week.
Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) pupa:
Large Owlet (Opsiphanes tamarindi) pupa:
At the Academy the pupae are carefully unpacked and placed in temperature / humidity controlled chambers.
Each morning biologists check the chambers for emerged adult which are then released into the Rainforest exhibit. Here is a picture of one of our biologists releasing butterflies for the morning:
By planting native flowering Costa Rican plants and providing various feeding stations throughout our Rainforest Dome, the butterflies here always have nectar and pollen sources.
Golden Helicon (Heliconius hecale) on flowering Hamealia petens:
Banded Orange Longwing (Dradula phaetusa) on flowering Salvia coccinea:
Magnificent Owl (Caligo atreus):
The butterflies do not reproduce in our exhibit. We make sure to avoid planting any host plants for their caterpillars to prevent them from reproducing. Our mini Rainforest is not big enough to accommodate voracious caterpillars munching their way to adulthood!
The Academy and Native Pollinators
In addition to supporting the butterflies on exhibit, the Academy also supports local pollinators in Golden Gate Park. Our Living Roof is home to nine species of native annuals and perennials.
Although our Living Roof has only been in existence since 2008, a study by San Francisco State University biology students in 2009 showed that Bay Area native insects were already more prevalent on our roof than other areas in Golden Gate Park. Read all about the study HERE.
Our Business Entrance side (along Middle Drive) also has many Bay Area native plants that pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies and hummingbirds love! Plants which include Lupinus spp., California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) are some of our local pollinators’ favorites!
Here is a picture of one of our many mini gardens along Middle Drive:
Check out the corbicula, or, “pollen basket” on the leg of this bumble bee at our garden!:
What You Can Do
Whether it be in celebration of National Pollinator Week, or because you just love pollinators as much as we do, try planting some flowering Bay Area native plants in your backyard, sidewalk planters, balcony, or front lawn! Planting native species not only attract native wildlife but are also less maintenance compared to plants that are normally grown in different climates. Here are some of the plants that do well in areas of San Francisco:
Bees cannot resist lovely Seaside Buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium):
Hummingbirds adore Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus ):
Not just an eye-pleaser, Ceanothus spp. are also loved by pollinators:
Be sure consider some of the following when choosing your plants:
How much sun/shade does your area have?
What kind of soil do you have?
How hot does your area get?
Pollinator Partnership is a great resource to get started.
With our help, pollinators will be here to stay! In the spirit of National Pollinator Week, meet our butterflies up close in the Rainforest Dome, and put some flowering native plants in the ground for the wonderful pollinators at home!