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Illinois insect enthusiasts celebrate National Pollinator Week

6/12/2008

Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor
217-333-5802; diya@illinois.edu

Butterfly painting
Click photo to enlarge
Painting by Sachi Nagase, 4th grade
Every year the department of entomology holds an insect art contest that is open to local students in conjunction with its annual Insect Fear Film Festival. View slide show of some recent entries in the art contest that depict pollinating insects, along with photos of pollinators taken by Amro Zayed, a postdoctoral researcher in entomology. (Photos are rights protected: azayed@life.uiuc.edu).

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Remember the pollinators! That is the rallying cry of local bug aficionados as they prepare for National Pollinator Week, June 22-28.

An art exhibit, tours and instruction on the intricacies of identifying and photographing native bees, butterflies and other pollinators will be among the activities sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Pollinator Awareness Network (CUPAN) during the week.

CUPAN brings University of Illinois entomologists, plant biologists and other scientists together with local gardeners, naturalists and concerned citizens to promote National Pollinator Week and recruit new bug-centric detectives to observe, photograph and report on the status of local pollinating insects.

The week will begin with an opening ceremony on June 22 (Sunday) from 2-5 p.m. at the Plant Biology Conservatory on the U. of I. campus (Plant Sciences Building, 1201 Dorner Drive, Urbana). Entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum will welcome participants and describe local efforts and opportunities to get involved in pollinator conservation. The event will include a pollinator art exhibit, pollinator-themed tours of the conservatory and information about local organizations that enhance pollinator health.

During the week, CUPAN members will offer workshops on how to identify native bees, how to photograph pollinators and how to use Bee Spotter, a citizen-science bee-monitoring Web site developed at Illinois. Local libraries will offer pollinator discovery programs for children, and pollinator educators will give guided nature walks. More events will be offered at Urbana’s Market on the Square and at other venues. For an up-to-date schedule of events, visit: http://www.life.uiuc.edu/entomology/pollinators/

The U.S. Senate created National Pollinator Week in 2007 to broaden public awareness that pollinators are vital to agriculture and natural ecosystems. The observance is meant to enhance partnerships that increase awareness of pollinators and encourage people to engage in activities that protect and sustain them.

The National Academies of Science released a report last year, the “Status of Pollinators in North America,” which led to the creation of National Pollinator Week. That report documented significant declines in populations of pollinating insects and recommended that scientists promote awareness and surveillance of pollinators by developing and supporting citizen-science monitoring programs. Berenbaum chaired the National Research Council committee that produced the report, and she testified before Congress on colony collapse disorder, a mysterious malady of North American honey bees.

The report inspired Berenbaum and her colleagues to create the Bee Spotter Web site, which improves record-keeping of the abundance and distribution of wild bees in Illinois by allowing citizen-scientists to report on honey bees and bumble bees seen anywhere in the state. The Web site is available at: http://beespotter.mste.uiuc.edu.

Illinois has a strong commitment to research and educational programs related to pollinating insects. It played a key role in the collaborative effort that sequenced the honey bee genome in 2006, and Illinois researchers are working to identify the factors leading to colony collapse disorder. In addition to developing and supporting the Bee Spotter Web site, the entomology department hosts an annual Insect Fear Film Festival, which celebrates insects in popular films and includes an insect petting zoo and educational activities on insect behavior. University faculty members also provide ongoing workshops on bee keeping and gardening to attract and support pollinators.

Editor’s note: Color images of children’s drawings and paintings of pollinators and high quality photos of pollinating insects are available.

To reach CUPAN organizer Cindy McDonnell, e-mail: cmcdonne@illinois.edu.