Why are we cheering for pollinators? Because their work is important to our environment! Pollination is an essential step in the life cycle of many flowering and cone-bearing plants (not just the kinds that look pretty, the kinds we eat as well).
Here are some of the things the zoo is doing to help the pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds, and more) that help to sustain our food chain:
The proper term for the pollinator gardens at the zoo is “Monarch Waystations,” and we have two of them. One is located at the Indiana Family Farm and the other is on the hill that runs parallel to the Sky Safari ride in the African Journey. Gardens like these can look a little rough in their early years, but once established they bear flowers yearly and require minimal upkeep.
Zoo keeper Dave Messmann is part of a team of zoo staff and volunteers working to expand the Monarch Waystations and keep them flourishing. Messman offers some suggestions regarding pollinator-friendly plants, “There are many species of native plants you could put in a pollinator garden. Some of the plants we have at the Indiana Family Farm are goldenrod, milkweed, and bee balm. They’re all different colors.”
Messmann explains that a healthy garden is one that can sustain various forms of life, “If you look close you can see a little ecosystem develop. Aphids live on the plants, insects eat the aphids. Sometimes the inside of the stem is a place where insects can develop. The garden becomes self-sustainable.”
And a sustainable garden is the kind of place where monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators flourish. Here are photos of some of the plants in the zoo’s Monarch Waystations. Click on the photos to enlarge, and consider including some pollinator-friendly plants in your next gardening project:
There’s a beehive at the zoo, and it’s a unique one. Our hive has clear sides, so guests can have a look inside at the bees’ hard work. Bees pollinate a variety of plants, including many of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat. The next time you eat apples, broccoli, or almonds, thank a bee! If you’d like to learn more about bee keeping, visit the American Beekeeping Federation website. Click on the photos to enlarge:
In the summer of 2015, the zoo devoted an entire day to pollinator education at our What’s The Buzz event. Zoo guests learned about the importance of pollinators like bees and butterflies. Kids participated in several event stations, and even built “beehives” from re-used materials to learn how bees work together. Education helps us understand pollinators and the critical role they play in the food chain. We’re all in this together!