AUSTIN — For the next two weeks, Texans are invited to take part in the sixth annual statewide Pollinator BioBlitz. The goal of the BioBlitz, which runs from Oct. 1-17, is to raise awareness of the diversity and importance of pollinators while bringing greater attention to the critical habitat needs of monarchs and native pollinators across the state.
“Documented declines in insect populations, particularly pollinators, have brought to the forefront the need to better understand these species and the support they provide Texas rangelands, agriculture and native ecosystems,” says Ross Winton, Invertebrate Biologist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Texas is home to thousands of pollinator species from the iconic monarch down to the smallest solitary bee.”
In support of the event, organizations including TPWD, the National Butterfly Center, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), among other sites around the state, will celebrate the importance of pollinators by hosting a variety of events to get people outdoors to observe them. Of course, you don’t have to visit a particular site to participate; your very own yard or neighborhood park will do.
Community scientists involved in projects like this help us gather data on Texas species and the plant communities they are connected to, Winton adds.
“These projects help biologists learn not only what we have in our great state but also what we need to strive to protect,” Winton says.
In addition to the monarch, 30 species of pollinators have been designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” by TPWD. Native butterflies, bees, moths, bats, hummingbirds, wasps, flies and beetles are essential to healthy ecosystems and sustain native plant species, human food crops and crops for livestock.
The BioBlitz is designed to be fun for all ages, with no experience required. Participants are simply asked to look for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths, as well as nectar-producing plants, photograph or take video of them, and then share their discoveries online via Instagram or Facebook using #TXPollinators. Plant and insect species may be difficult to identify, so observers are encouraged to post what they know. For example, “Striped bee on Turk’s cap in Mission, Texas” will suffice.
Participants are encouraged to take it a step further and help increase the amount of data collected during the peak of fall migration by becoming a community scientist. Anyone can sign up and record their observations through the iNaturalist application on their phones or home computers. All pollinators and flowering plants posted between Oct. 1-17 will automatically be included in the 2021 Texas Pollinator BioBlitz Project on iNaturalist. There is no cost to participate, and the only tools needed are a camera or smartphone and internet access.
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.
Participants can also sign up for weekly email updates and join the Facebook Event to add to the excitement as everyone works together to increase awareness of our pollinators and the availability of their habitat.