Citizen Science at the Butterfly Pavilion
Our gardens and nature trail act as outdoor classrooms for learners of all ages, but they also provide food, shelter and water for hundreds of invertebrate species. By participating in citizen science projects, Butterfly Pavilion staff and volunteers learn about the health of these habitats and encourage visitors to get excited about science and the natural world.
Some of these citizen science projects are national in scope, while others are specific to the Butterfly Pavilion. Citizen science projects are a great way to get outdoors and get involved; just about anyone with access to a backyard or park can participate.
Beneficial Insect Census
This project surveys the diversity and behavior of the garden's "good guys" - pollinators and predators in one of the Butterfly Pavilion's habitat gardens. Census takers document what beneficial insects are present on specific plants in the garden.
Lost Ladybug Project
This kid-friendly study, from Cornell University, encourages people all over the United States to document what ladybug species are found in their area. You can learn more about the project here.
Great Sunflower Project
Pollinators are important parts of any functioning ecosystem, but many experts are concerned about declines in diversity and abundance. Participants in this study plant sunflowers and identify the pollinators that visit them. You can learn more about the project here.
Participants in this project tag Monarch butterflies as they migrate south for the winter. Researchers can then note the route that these winged wonders take across the continent.You can learn more about the project here.
Are flowering plants blooming earlier than they used to? How might this effect the relationship between plants and the animals they support? This national project is a good one for gardeners, since it includes many common garden plants in the survey. You can learn more about the project here.
Much of the food we eat, the materials we use and even medicines we need wouldn’t exist without the help of insect pollinators. Gardens are a great way to help local pollinator populations.
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- Don’t use pesticides. If you spray poison to get rid of pesky plant-eaters, you may end up getting rid of your pollinators. By emphasizing good plant health care and using other methods of pest management, you can create a healthy habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
- Provide trees, shrubs and groundcovers for shelter. A layered garden, with plants of different heights, creates safe haven for a variety of pollinators. Some smaller insects rely on groundcovers for protection from the elements and predators. Butterflies often roost in trees or shrubs overnight. Many plants can serve “double duty” and provide shelter and food at the same time.
- Plant flowers that provide nectar. Different pollinators usually visit different plants based on their body size, foraging behavior and sensory capabilities, but all are looking for nectar or some other important resource. So, think of a diversity of flowers as not only pleasing to the eye, but as a buffet for pollinators of all stripes.
- Plant in clumps for easier foraging. Bees and butterflies will often focus on one species of flowering plant until they reach an empty flower. This routine requires less energy and makes it easier to find food. Gardens that have several plants of the same species clumped together are more attractive to hungry pollinators.
- Deadhead old flowers to produce new flowers. Flowers, of course, usually lead to fruit and seeds; this requires a great deal of energy from the plant. If gardeners snip off old flowers before the plant makes an investment in seed production, the plant will often put that energy into more flowers.
- Extend the blooming season. With Colorado’s tricky weather, pollinators may forage from March through November. Early bloomers like small bulbs, lilacs and chives can begin your garden’s flowering season, which can end with rabbitbrush and goldenrod in the fall.
- Plant native plants for specialized pollinators. Our native pollinators have adapted over generations to the plants that originally grew along the Front Range. Foreign plants may not have the same enticements or have the same ease of access. Gardens with native plants, such as Rocky Mountain beeplant and rabbitbrush, really are mini-habitats.
- Learn about the “forgotten pollinators.” Bees and butterflies are often the first pollinators to come to mind, but insects such as soldier beetles and hover flies also provide an important service. After learning about some of these other heroes of the garden, you might see your yard, and its inhabitants, in a whole different light.