HARLINGEN — Bats do it, bees do it, even butterflies in trees do it.
What these species do is pollinate Texas flora, and to recognize their importance, the second statewide Pollinator BioBlitz is about to commence on Sept. 23 and run through Oct. 8.
The BioBlitz is intended to allow students, citizen-scientists and anybody who just likes being outdoors to help crowd-source data during the peak fall migration of the monarch butterfly to focus on them and other native pollinators across the state.
Participants can be any age, and are simply asked to look for pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, and the nectar-producing plants they feed on. Then folks are urged to photograph or video these pollinators, and share their scientific work online via Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #TXPollinators17.
While some plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, it’s not important. For example, “Small bee on sunflower at Moises Vela Middle School in Harlingen, Texas” is just fine.
Participants who would like to take their experience to the next level are encouraged to sign up and record their observations in the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Project through the iNaturalist application on their mobile phones or home computers at www.inaturalist.org/projects/2017-texas-pollinator-bioblitz
There is no cost to participate and the only tools needed are a camera or smartphone, plus internet access.
“The monarch, our state butterfly and symbol for the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz, is one of the most beautiful and recognizable insects on Earth,” said Ben Hutchins, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department invertebrate biologist. “Unfortunately, monarch populations have declined dramatically over the last 20 years due to loss of overwintering habitat, loss of nectar plants, and disappearance of milkweeds, on which monarch caterpillars feed.
“And the monarch tells us a lot about the health of other pollinators too, like the 1,000 native bee species that call Texas home,” he added. “We all depend on the services that these animals provide.”
In addition to the monarch, 30 species of pollinators have been designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Native butterflies, bees and moths, along with bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies and beetles, are essential to healthy ecosystems and to sustain native plant species, human food crops and crops for livestock. To learn more about the importance of pollinators, sign up to be counted, and locate events across the state, visit the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz website at www.tpwd.texas.gov/pollinators
You can also sign up for daily challenges to add to the excitement as everyone works together to increase awareness of pollinators and the availability of their habitat.
Participating partners are the National Butterfly Center in Mission, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Federation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
1) JOIN & REGISTER — Join the Pollinator BioBlitz event page on Facebook and sign up to receive daily challenges, event information, and more during the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz.
2) OBSERVE & IDENTIFY — Head outside to look for pollinators for identification. Identification can be as simple as “butterfly” or as detailed as “monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths and other animals.
3) SHARE — Take a photo or video of any pollinators you find as well as your daily challenge images and share it on one or two web sites:
1) Instagram (hashtag #TXpollinators17).
2) Texas Pollinator BioBlitz iNaturalist project for those wanting to take the extra step.
Helpful guides to pollinators
Video on Pollinator BioBlitz