Many insects that are feared or viewed as distasteful are anything but, providing important services that maintain ecosystems and support agriculture.
Despite a longstanding ecological relationship with plants and pollinators, public perceptions of insects are often negative, or there are gaps in our understanding of the benefits of insects and why they require our protection.
The Friends of the Living Prairie Museum received a two year Eco-Action grant for a new project, Education for Conservation: Prairie Pollinators and Beneficial Insects.
Why focus on insects?
The majority of flowering plants within natural, agricultural, and urban habitats benefit from the visits of pollinating insects. Movement of pollen between plants increases genetic diversity in the following generation, which translates to a hardier population of individuals better equipped to withstand a variety of environmental stressors. For tall grass prairie, of which less than 1% of remains, maintaining genetic diversity becomes extremely important.
Much of the food grown in North America relies on insect pollination. Wild pollinators increase yields in crops such as canola, and recent research suggests that establishing wild bee habitat adjacent to cropland improves production while protecting local pollinators.
Pollinating insects in urban settings are also important. Early flowering fruit trees and shrubs such as cherry, plum, and Saskatoon bushes are pollinated by many species of newly emerged bees. Backyard gardens produce a variety of food and flowers with the assistance of pollinators, while at the same time providing habitat and food for visiting insects.
Pollinators face a number of challenges to their survival, including climate change, pesticides, introduced pathogens, and habitat loss. As a result, research into pollinator declines has gained attention in recent years, and action is being taken to protect native pollinators through education.
The Living Prairie Museum is working to protect pollinator habitat, create awareness of conservation issues, and create pollinator habitat in urban areas. With this EcoAction grant, we will be able to increase public awareness of the biology, conservation, economic, and environmental importance of native pollinating insects through the development of a series of educational materials.
- Establish a collection of the pollinating insects that occur in prairie habitat within the City of Winnipeg. This collection will provide important records of occurrence, and may yield new records for the province.
- Create mobile exhibits that can be used for environmental education programs. These exhibits could be used in schools or during community events.
- Create a new exhibit for the museum that features pollinators and beneficial insects. The exhibit would include specimens, photography and important information about biology and conservation.
- Develop community outreach programs that introduce common pollinating insects, including identification, biology, economic relevance, and conservation.
This project was made possible through the The Living Prairie Museum, Insect Control Branch, and Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society (Alberta). We are grateful to our partners who help us reach a broad audience across the prairies.
Additionally, this project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of the Environment.
En outre, ce projet a été réalisé avec l'appui financier du Gouvernement du Canada agissant par l'entremise du ministère fédéral de l'Environnement.