University students across the country are calling on Michelle Obama to take action for pollinators for Endangered Species Day, which will be celebrated on May 15th 2015. Pollinator species, such as butterflies and bees, are facing serious declines across the country. These amazing species are not only natural treasures, but they are also vital for our agricultural systems. On Monday, a letter signed by 20 student organizations across the country and a petition signed by 165 individual students were delivered to the First Lady in hopes that she will use her voice to protect pollinators.
As part of her Let’s Move initiative, the First Lady has created a White House Kitchen Garden, and in 2014, the first ever White House Pollinator Garden was also planted to support pollination and raise awareness of threats to pollinators. As Mrs. Obama shares a concern for pollinator survival, she is an ideal ally and voice for the protection of these animals.
Loss of milkweed habitat is causing a major decline in monarch butterfly populations. Monarch caterpillars rely exclusively on milkweed for survival, the loss of milkweed due to the use of GMO crops and widespread use of herbicides and pesticides is greatly threatening their survival. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years, and remaining populations have lost 165 million acres of habitat in that timeframe, in large part due to herbicide and pesticide use.
Native bee populations have also plummeted in recent years because of many threats including spread of diseases, habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species. The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides has killed many and hampered the ability of others to return to their hives. “Neonics” are systemic; when applied, they infiltrate all of the structures of a plant, including its nectar. Neonics are very heavily used in agriculture as well as in residential and commercial settings.
We are deeply concerned with the plummeting populations of pollinators across the country, and these university students are also working to provide habitat for bees and butterflies on their campuses. Planting pesticide-free pollinator gardens that include milkweed is an important step in protecting the pollinator populations that are necessary for human survival.
The First Lady is an important voice for pollinators. We hope that she will join us and take action to protect these important and amazing animals before it’s too late!
The students are asking her to publicly encourage schools, businesses, churches, and community groups across the country to plant pollinator gardens and adopt pollinator-friendly, pesticide and herbicide-free practices. If you want to protect the bees and butterflies in your community, consider planting your own pesticide-free garden with milkweed and other native plants!