Bees and Butterflies Just Got a 1,500-Mile Highway to Save Their Lives

monarch-680x330By Christina Sarich

Bees and butterflies, the world’s premiere pollinators, will get a big boost along a 1,500-mile section of a major U.S. Federal highway in an effort to boost declining populations. All major crops depend upon these small creatures, and account for almost 10 percent of worldwide food production, according to a report created on behalf of a United Nations panel for biodiversity.

The importance of pollinating insects cannot be overlooked — it is so imperative this report was translated into 28 languages and has been on sites in over 80 countries.

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Now, travelers along Interstate 35, all the way from Minnesota to Texas, will notice lush vegetation meant to provide food and refuge for Monarch butterflies and honey bees, among other pollinating insects. In recent years, beekeepers have reported as much as a 40 percent loss of bee colonies, and monarchs haven’t fared much better. Their decline has been blamed on a number of factors, ranging from loss of habitat, to the use of glyphosate, fungicides, neonicotinoids, a special class of insecticides, to weird weather.

Butterflies, just by themselves, are the third most prolific pollinating insect class. Without them, you can kiss most of your favorite produce goodbye. Bees are better known as pollinators, and equally as important: flies, moths, bats and wasps; but butterflies can travel long distances, ensuring that flowering plants in large areas get pollinated. Bees, on the hand, concentrate on small areas, and are thus often brought to specific orchards or farms for commercial pollination. We need them both.

An agreement to help save them was signed just days ago by officials from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — and the federal government. They will also develop a branding campaign to informally name the interstate the Monarch Highway.

First Lady, Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson, once promoted a similar plan to plant wildflowers along U.S. highways, but it was meant for beautification, more than a last ditch effort to correct the actions of a greedy agricultural industry.

If you plan to drive the new Monarch Highway you can enjoy both the beauty of native plants, and know that these efforts, among others, might also just save our food supply.

This article (Bees and Butterflies Just Got a 1,500-Mile Highway to Save Their Lives) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Christina Sarich and If you spot a typo, please email the error and the name of the article to [email protected]. Image credit: Public Domain/David Wagner

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