Thursday, September 15, 2016

Join the NC Butterfly Highway: Roadmap for Pollinator and Wildlife Conservation

The Butterfly Highway is a statewide conservation restoration initiative that aims to restore native pollinator habitats to areas impacted by urbanization, land use change and agriculture across North Carolina. From backyard Pollinator Pitstops to large-scale roadside habitat restoration, the project is creating a network of native flowering plants to support butterflies, bees, birds and other pollen and nectar dependent wildlife.

The Butterfly Highway began with several communities in Charlotte, NC that wanted to beautify their environment through planting gardens. Through the Butterfly Highway, these communities are transforming community gardens, backyard gardens, public spaces and park fragments into new pollinator and wildlife habitats. The Butterfly Highway has also provided capacity for communities to participate in a community based citizen science project that tracks butterflies and bumble bees. No garden is too small to make an impact and all together they are a part of the Butterfly Highway.

Importance of Pollinators in North Carolina
  • North Carolina has a $78 billion agriculture economy that relies on pollinators for crops such as squash, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
  • Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% crops either require or have a higher production because of pollinator insect visit
  • It has been estimated that native pollinators are responsible for pollinating almost $3.07 billion of US produced fruits and vegetables.
  • Only 2% of wild bee species do 80% of the pollination
  • Conservation of wild pollinator habitat in agricultural areas can provide several economic benefits in addition to increased crop production these include reduction in area of cultivated land and reduced rental of cultivated honeybees. Farms that include pollinator conservation practices may be eligible for subsidies or receive a premium price for produce that is organic or “environmentally friendly”.
  • In a 1996 study, Americans reported that they spent $33.8 billion on wildlife and bird watching. Insects, including pollinator larvae, are an important food source for birds and provide protein that is vital to young chicks. Pollinator larvae are an important source of this protein. Calculations based on the number of insectivorous birds, places an estimated annual economic value insects to wildlife watching at $19.8 billion.
Current status of pollinators in North Carolina
  • The Birds and the Bees Act (NC Senate Bill 225) is currently under review and a report is due March 1, 2016.
  • There are 13 known bumblebee species in NC several of which are threatened. Bombus affinis (rusty patch bumble bee), Bombus terricola (Yellowbanded bumble bee) and Epeoloides pilosula.
  • There are 174 species of butterflies in NC and approximately 1200 moth species.
  • Monarch butterflies journey through NC during both their spring and fall migrations. Because of the threats to pollinator habitats, there has been a loss of important nectar plants as well as a significant loss in the Monarch’s host plant milkweed, which can affect their ability to fly the long distances as a part of migration.
Threats to NC pollinators
  • Native pollinator habitat loss, limited floral resources
  • Invasive plants
  • Landscape fragmentation due to urbanization
  • Parasites
  • Diseases
  • Overuse of pesticides and fungicides
  • Introduced bee species, feral domesticated bees
Native plants should be used in habitat restoration and pollinator gardens
Natives typically:
  • Do not require fertilizers.
  • Require fewer pesticides for maintenance.
  • Require less water than other nonnative plantings.
  • May function to inhibit nonnative weed encroachment.
  • Provide permanent shelter and food for wildlife
  • Are less likely to become invasive than nonnative plants
  • Promote local native biological diversity.
  • Are preferred by native pollinators.
North Carolina Wildlife Federation impact on pollinators
We are engaged in projects and programs at many different levels to create a lasting impact across the state.
  • Landscape scale restoration: Engage private landowners and public lands in large scale native meadow and riparian restoration projects. Examples of landscape scale projects include meadow restoration in utility right of ways and private or publicly owned sites > 1 acre.
  • Pollinator Pitstops: Pollinator Pitstops can be any size and created anywhere as long they include native pollinator nectar and host plants. Pollinator Pitstops can be added to residential yards, libraries, community centers, local businesses, the options are endless.
  • Stewardship: Pollinator habitat and monitoring training course will be offered for Habitat Stewards.
  • Partnerships: NCWF will establish strategic partnerships with stakeholders, municipalities and organizations that have an interest in or are currently working on pollinator programs. These partnerships will help to ensure that these gardens have a sustainable long term impact on native pollinators and wildlife in NC.

Connelly, H., Poveda, K. & Loeb, G. Landscape simplification decreases wild bee pollination services to strawberry. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 211, 51–56 (2015).
Garibaldi, L. A. et al. From research to action: enhancing crop yield through wild pollinators. Front. Ecol. Environ. 12, 439–447 (2014).

Learn how to participate in the Butterfly Highway and register your pollinator garden at:

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