Your own backyard can be home to an pretty amazing diversity of wildlife, especially if you create a wildlife-friendly landscape with our Garden for Wildlife program. When you camp in your yard, you might glimpse the neighborhood fox, hear the trilling of noctural treefrogs, spot a giant silk moth, hear the hoot of an owl, or just have fun catching fireflies.
Pledge to camp with as part of the Great American Campout and then read on to find out how you can make your yard more inviting to local wildlife so they will “camp” in your yard with you this summer:
Along with setting up shelter or “tents” for wildlife in your yard, provide wildlife with food and water sources plus places to raise young to make your yard a NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Once you have all the necessary requirements, certify your wildlife habitat!]]>
To complete this challenge, we need individual as well as group action. We need to mobilize into an “army” of gardeners to help our fellow bugs, bees, birds and butterflies survive!
Here’s how I transformed my garden into a wildlife habitat:
I was determined to garden using native Louisiana plants. I wanted to create a sustainable space to help save pollinators. Armed with my well researched lists, I rooted through hundreds of specimens around the city to find plants native to southeast Louisiana.My side garden is now a thriving monarch habitat with host plants of milkweed and salvia. As more of the natural monarch habitats diminish, these plants, specifically native milkweed, provide a critical place to lay eggs and necessary food source.
The plants are not huge nor out of danger from the elements but for now, they all look happy. At this point I have seven varieties of native salvia and 5 varieties of milkweed (though I had to mail order seeds for 4 of the varieties).
Good news: in just two years, there’s been a shift and the botanical garden staff are marking their plants as “native” and “pollinators”! The National Herb Society, for example, holds a sale once a year and always has a section of native plants.
I’m on a mission to spread the word in New Orleans to create a community for people and pollinators using native plants.
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, there are still plenty of places that look like this in the Lower 9th, but imagine these same lots providing habitat for Monarchs!By law each property owner in New Orleans parish must maintain his lot, at a huge environmental cost when using gas-powered mowers. Environmentally it would be a win-win; we could almost eliminate mowing while maintaining open spaces and providing habitat for butterflies who find it more and more difficult to find food on their great migrations!
A multi-pronged approach is what is needed to preserve nature: pushing for legislation, municipalities and individuals creating habitats, involving educators, gardeners, families and sportsmen to hold onto what is near and dear as well as ultimately insuring our own survival!
Have the essential elements (food source, water source, cover, and places to raise young) for a wildlife habitat? Then certify your garden or green space today!]]>
Images of honey bees or bumble bees come to mind for most. Many of us urban and suburbanites have an idyllic image of bees and butterflies in the countryside. Something like this…Unfortunately, it more often looks like this… A recent study published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B by scientists from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom found that land near towns supported greater insect diversity than those in rural areas. Lead researcher Dr. Deepa Senapathi explains that species have been declining in both urban and agricultural areas for years, but species declined further in rural areas. This is in part due to the increases in large expanses of monoculture. And this dynamic rings true in the U.S. as well with nearly 50% of America’s land set aside as managed cropland, rangeland, pasture, or production forest land.
Dr. Deepa goes on to say, “While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanization may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture,” she said.
Consider some of these pollinator gardens in our nations urban areas:
Here in the U.S. there is a real movement underway in our urban and suburban areas to help provide habitat for our nation’s smallest wildlife – pollinators.
The White House has launched a new national strategy to address the decline of honey bees and other pollinators. In response to this strategy the National Wildlife Federation and our partners founded the National Pollinator Garden Network and launched the Million Pollinator Network Challenge with a goal of planting 1,000,000 pollinator gardens in urban and suburban areas by the end of 2016.
City governments are already stepping up to help pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has been a champion for the monarch butterfly and launched a successful and growing Milkweeds for Monarchs program. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council recently passed a resolution to get more milkweed planted on city properties and launched a pollinator challenge. Alpharetta, GA, is joining the Million Pollinator Challenge as well, encouraging its residents to create habitat within the community.
We need YOUR HELP to reverse the troubling decline of pollinators by creating pollinator habitat where you live, work, learn, play and/or worship. Please join the 150,000+ Americans who are part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife movement and access resources through Facebook, our Wildlife Promise blog and our website.
Certify your pollinator habitat so it is counted in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Already certified? Then rally your entire neighborhood or city to get certified through the NWF Community Wildlife Habitat program.
WE NEED FARM COUNTRY TOO!
To reach the scale of habitat restoration needed to turn the tide for monarchs and other pollinator species, we will need cooperation from urban, suburban, and rural landowners and land managers. We must all do our part. Combining our work in urban and suburban areas with restoration of habitat on public lands; utility, highway and railroad right of ways; hobby farms; stream buffers; edges of crop fields; rangelands; and on the 26 million acre Conservation Reserve Program; we can provide the acres of habitat needed to help insects that pollinate our food crops and those in steep decline, such as the monarch.]]>
Bees are the most important pollinators, but over 100,000 invertebrates—including butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, and beetles—and over 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, act as pollinators.
Unfortunately, pollinators are in decline worldwide. Habitat loss, invasive species, parasites, and pesticides are largely to blame.
You can help save pollinators. Here are ten ways you can directly help pollinators and support National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to protect and restore these critically important wildlife species.
1. Become a Wildlife Gardener
Join NWF’s growing movement of Wildlife Gardeners who are have made the choice to nurture their own small piece of the Earth–their own yards and gardens–with the needs of wildlife like pollinators in mind. It’s as simple as subscribing to our free Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter. Each month, we’ll send out NWF’s expert tips and projects on how to attract birds, butterflies, pollinators and other “backyard wildlife” to guide you as you become an expert yourself.
3. Gives Bees Nesting Places
There are 4,000 bee species native to North America (the honey bee is a European import) and most of those don’t form hives. Instead, individual female bees lay their eggs in tunnels in decaying wood or in sandy soil. You can offer such nesting spots by leaving tree snags on your property, by leaving bare batches of sandy soil, or by building or buying whimsical native bee houses.
5. Plant Milkweed
The iconic monarch butterfly has declined by over 90 percent in just twenty years. One of the main causes of this decline is a lack of milkweed, the species’ only caterpillar host plant. Without milkweed, monarchs can’t complete their lifecycle and populations plummet. By planting milkweed in your own yard, garden or neighborhood, you’ll not only attract these beautiful butterflies, you’ll be providing crucial habitat that will allow their caterpillars to survive. Find out what milkweed is native to where you live and how to get it.
8. Join NWF Affiliate Efforts in Your State
Eleven of NWF’s state affiliates are active partners in the Garden for Wildlife program, teaching people how to create habitat for bees, monarchs and other pollinators. They offer regional expertise and resources, offering native milkweed seeds, running monarch tagging and citizen science efforts and even working on legislative solutions. Joining these efforts is a great way to get involved on the local level. Find out if your state’s NWF affiliate is working to protect pollinators.
9. Post a Yard Sign
When you create a pollinator garden and certify it with National Wildlife Federation, you become part of the exclusive group of people who can post a Certified Wildlife Habitat sign. The sign is a wonderful way of letting your friends and neighbors know about all the hard work you’ve done to make a difference for wildlife like pollinators. Posting the sign is also a grassroots way of spreading the message that each of us can make a difference by creating a pollinator-friendly garden or landscape and inspiring others to follow your example. Certify now and get your sign, or if you’re already certified you can order a sign here.
The National Wildlife Federation is joining with dozens of conservation and gardening organizations as well as seed groups to form the National Pollinator Garden Network and launch a new nationwide campaign – the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
You can participate the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge by turning your yard or garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat via National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program. It’s as simple as providing food, water, cover and places to raise young for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Then visit our website to certify your habitat.]]>
The National Wildlife Federation will work with the Network to rally hundreds of thousands of gardeners, horticultural professionals, schools, and volunteers to help reach a million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.
You can participate the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge by turning your yard or garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat via National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife program. It’s as simple as providing food, water, cover and places to raise young for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Then visit our website to certify your yard.
When you certify, you’ll get a personalized certificate, a special garden flag designating your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat, a one-year membership to National Wildlife Federation, six digital issues of National Wildlife magazine, a subscription to the monthly Garden for Wildlife e-newsletter, and a discount on wildlife gardening products from National Wildlife Catalog.
Most importantly, you’ll also start attracting beautiful pollinators and get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re making a difference. Each Certified Wildlife Habitat counts towards the ultimate goal of creating one million pollinator-friendly gardens by the end of 2016. Click here to certify now.
At Jamaica Bay, we had our own little polygon plot — actually two — where we planted evening primrose and other native plants. Michelle Luebke, an education specialist at Gateway who had cleared the area from the invasive plants that were growing there, showed us the layout and set us to work. Grown-ups and children split up into two groups. We worked cooperatively – always a nice lesson to learn in kindergarten! Parents dug holes. Little hands planted seedlings. We were all very careful about where we stepped.The restorative benefits of being outside are well known, but it is also true that the outdoors can be a great classroom. After planting, NPS Ranger Dan Meharg seized on my kindergarteners’ excess energy and took them on a hike through the Refuge. He pointed out all kinds of plants, including milkweed, poison ivy and beach plum, as well as birds such as osprey, tree swallows and a red-winged blackbird.
Dan helped the children hone their observation skills as he pointed out similarities and differences among different plant and animal species. Will they remember how to identify these species by the time they get to first grade? Maybe or maybe not. But Dan emphasized the greater lesson of looking closely, a skill my students will need for the rest of their lives.Our group also got a mini-history and politics lesson as we stood before a former freshwater pond while Dan described the damage that Hurricane Sandy caused to Jamaica Bay. The destructive hurricane breached a sand barrier and flooded the pond with salt water. Government officials are still trying to figure out whether it should be restored. Abstract concepts for little people and big people alike are much more meaningful when witnessed first-hand. We did not walk away with answers, but we understood. To be honest, there is another lingering lesson that I hope my little kindergarteners will carry with them throughout their lives: the lesson that we can all make a difference in our corner of the earth. The issues our world is facing can be quite discouraging at times. There is so much that is out of our control – conflict, wars, disease, greedy corporations. However, no matter how small we are, we can do some good where we are, even if it is for creatures smaller than us, like butterflies and bumble bees. We can make our little polygon plot a better place to be.
Join NWF and become involved with Eco-Schools USA! Learn about educational green programs and initiatives.
About the Author: Mina Campanie is in her fourth year of teaching as a kindergarten teacher at P.S. 197, The Kings Highway Academy in Brooklyn, NY. She sees many similarities between caring for her seedlings at home and nurturing the kindergarteners at school. This is her second guest blog for National Wildlife Federation. Read her first blog, Kindergarteners Help Grow a Wild Brooklyn.
Now, Montana is looking to get in on the wildlife habitat action. NWF’s Missoula staff is working with diverse partners to promote wildlife-friendly gardening and help people connect with nature. We are especially excited about our partnership with the City of Missoula. In March, Mayor John Engen proclaimed “Missoula Wildlife Week” and endorsed the Missoula Community Wildlife Habitat Initiative, which aims to put Missoula on the map as the first NWF Certified Community Wildlife Habitat in Montana. Parks and Recreation is working towards transforming Missoula open spaces into wildlife-friendly parks, and even partnered with NWF volunteers to re-plant a local park with native grasses.Missoula Office of Neighborhoods promotes wildlife-friendly gardening by offering training and grants for neighborhood teams that “adopt a traffic-calming circle” and incorporate key habitat elements. In June, City employees will receive a financial reward for certifying their home gardens as wildlife habitats.
In addition to working with the City of Missoula, NWF is collaborating with partner organizations to create volunteer opportunities so that community members can learn how they can transform their community and homes into a haven not just for people, but wildlife as well. Through tabling at events like WildFest, Wildlife Extravaganza, and UnPlug and Play, NWF has helped hundreds of people realize that habitat potential of their own backyard. Montana and the Northern Rockies are truly wild places, and not just outside the cities.
Learn more about the benefits of gardening for wildlife in this Seattle Times article.
Have the essential elements (food source, water source, cover, and places to raise young) for a wildlife habitat? Then certify your garden or green space today!
It doesn’t get more heartwarming than this. Students at PS 179 in Brooklyn are learning about the life cycle of monarch butterflies and helping this declining species at the same time. The school is a participant in National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program.
Through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers, Eco-Schools USA combines effective “green” management of the school grounds, the facilities and the curriculum; truly providing students with a unique, research and application based learning experience. The program strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum and enhance science and academic achievement. Additionally, it works to foster a greater sense of environmental stewardship among youth.
The school was even featured on the Today Show!
Read more about a similar project at PS 197 to help monarchs and to connect students to nature, and how your children’s school can become an Eco-School and create a Schoolyard Habitat.]]>
Because native insects did not evolve with nonnative plants, most of them lack the ability to overcome the plants’ chemical defenses so cannot eat them. Caterpillars, a particularly important food source for birds, are especially picky about what they feed on. Like the famous monarch butterfly larva, which must have milkweed to survive, more than 90 percent of moth and butterfly caterpillars eat only particular native plants or groups of plants.
To convince homeowners to plant more of these insect- (and bird-) friendly natives, “we need to put numbers on the consequences of landscaping with nonnative plants,” Tallamy says. Three years ago, he and SMBC head Peter Marra received a National Science Foundation grant to do just that and hired Narango to carry out the project. She works through the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program, a 15-year-old citizen-science effort that enlists volunteers to record observations about nesting birds in their yards.
While the parents were busy feeding their hungry offspring, Narango and her team kept busy observing where the birds foraged and what they were feeding their young. The biologists also quantified the amount of native and nonnative vegetation within the birds’ territory and counted the number and kinds of insects on these plants.
At some of the 55 sites where chickadees produced nests last spring—including mine—Narango and her colleagues also mist netted and color banded birds (so they could be individually identified and observed from a distance), took blood, claw and feather samples (which will be analyzed for isotopes showing what the animals were eating) and video recorded adults feeding their hatchlings. It was great fun to watch these biologists at work without having to leave the comfort of my home.
Although native and nonnative plants seem to host similar numbers of insects, native trees support more of the caterpillars birds need to feed their young as well as “a more diverse suite of insect herbivores and predators,” Narango says. “Nonnative plants are good at supporting aphids and scale insects, which chickadees—as well as gardeners—tend not to like.”
“Chickadees prefer to forage on native trees, overwhelmingly so,” Narango says. “If you have a lot of trees that are not native,” she adds, “to the birds, it’s almost as if there are no trees at all.” For evidence, check out the map, below, showing where chickadees foraged in my yard.
Based on their videos, the researchers also discovered that parent birds vary from site to site in how many times they visit a nest with food as well as how many food items they bring each visit. While some arrive with a single caterpillar, others show up with a beak full of three to four insects. “It seems that some chickadees have to work a lot harder to bring back enough food to raise a clutch,” Narango says. “After analyzing the data, we should be able to relate this effort to a site’s dominance by native or nonnative trees.”
This year, Narango’s team is monitoring 156 sites with chickadee nest boxes, including mine. As of mid-April, “we have about 40 pairs building nests all over D.C., Maryland and Virginia,” she says.
But not in my yard—where I’ve seen no signs of chickadee-nesting activity. In fact, I’ve not seen or heard a single Carolina chickadee since last year’s clutch fledged in May. Narango tells me to hold onto my nest box and hope for better luck next year. “There are several yards where we got a nest in 2013 but no activity in 2014,” she says. “Those same yards are getting nests again this year.” She agrees it’s possible that one or both of my site’s parent birds perished since last spring, and it could take time for young chickadees to disperse into territories that are newly available, especially in urban areas that may offer lower-quality habitat. “It’s a tough world out there for a tiny bird,” Narango adds.
Help songbirds and other native wildlife by becoming a wildlife gardener.]]>
Now is peak migration time for many of these songbirds and they and other neotropical migrants are finally returning north to their breeding grounds – your backyards and gardens included! Bird lovers and wildlife gardeners can plant native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to feed and provide nesting spots for birds close to home, but what about the state of the habitat these same birds need when they fly south? Many of these birds overwinter in the Amazon.There are 28 migratory bird species (20 land birds and 8 water birds) that regularly call the Amazon home during the winter. This group includes songbirds such as the eastern wood pewee, chimney swift, gray-cheeked thrush, eastern kingbird, veery, black-whiskered vireo, red-eyed vireo, blackpoll warbler, and Connecticut warbler, as well as raptors such as the broad-winged hawk, peregrine falcon and osprey.
These species depend on forested habitats for food and shelter, but forests across the globe are disappearing at an alarming rate. About 30-37 million acres of forest are lost each year, the equivalent of 36 football fields per minute!In the Amazon, large scale agriculture is one of the main driving forces of deforestation. These agricultural goods are used to produce much of our food, clothing, and personal care products – from leather handbags and shoes to beef jerky and lip balm. This also includes soy used in animal feed in Europe and Asia, which ends up as nuggets and sausages in grocery stores and restaurants around the world.
However, there is some good news for our migratory friends and for their forested homes down south.NWF is leading the charge to help promote forest-friendly production for the key agricultural goods that are produced in the Brazilian Amazon. Just recently, NWF experts co-authored a new study that highlighted the effectiveness of a forest-friendly initiative focused on soy, known as the Soy Moratorium. The Moratorium was the first voluntary zero-deforestation agreement in the tropics, and it prevents major traders from selling soy that is linked to deforestation in the Amazon.
This agreement has been incredibly effective at safeguarding critical wildlife habitat against deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon, thus helping to ensure that our migratory friends have a place to call home during the cold winter months in the United States.
According to the study, without the Soy Moratorium, almost 5 million acres of Amazon forest could be legally cleared for soy. In other words, 5 million acres of habitat for migratory birds could be lost. So, this is a big victory for our wildlife. Additionally, this new study helps reinforce the position that NWF has supported for years: maintaining and strengthening the Soy Moratorium (and other forest-friendly initiatives) is the best strategy to reduce agriculture-related deforestation and protect our wildlife.While you work to improve wildlife habitat at home through our Garden for Wildlife program, we are also working to protect wildlife habitats around the world. You can join us in this effort by reaching out to the retailers and manufacturers of your favorite products to ask questions like: “Does your company have a policy on zero-deforestation?” and “From where do you source your raw ingredients?” Help start the conversation at the local level. Every little bit counts and, when the homes of our migratory friends are at stake, we need to do all we can to help save their habitats.
Learn more about the Soy Moratorium and other ways the NWF International Team is working to protect forests in the tropics.]]>