Search Results for: butterflies

Where have all the butterflies gone?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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For all those garden enthusiasts—whether you have a green thumb or not—have you noticed anything different this season?

The reason I’m asking the question is that I’m yet to see any butterflies in my backyard. Don’t know if I just haven’t seen them or of something else is going on.

I’ve tried to create a healthy natural setting that will encourage regular visits from benefitial insects and wildlife. I normally use greenscaping techniques to protect the environment. I have specifically planted several shrubs and perennials that supposedly attract bees, butterflies and birds—aster, yarrow, butterfly bush, and daylilies, to name a few. Overall, the flowering plants are blossoming as expected this year. Currently, I’ve noticed that my birdhouses already have their share of regular tenants. The hummingbirds have already made an early appearance—but no butterflies.

I was hoping to enjoy the colorful scenery with these fluttering visitors while leisurely resting at my deck, but I suppose I’ll have to be patient. Nonetheless, I have two other options in the DC metropolitan area at this time to see butterflies from around the world. The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History has an exhibit on Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution through the 10th of August and the Brookside Gardens South Conservatory in Wheaton, MD has a live butterfly exhibit called “Wings of Fancy” through September 21st. I highly recommend them to anyone who wishes to learn more about these colorful insects. If you’re traveling through DC, they exhibits are definitely worth a couple hours of your time.

In the meantime, I welcome advice on attracting butterflies to my garden.

¿Para dónde se han ido las mariposas?

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Para aquellas personas que les gusta la jardinería—independientemente si tienen buena mano o no—¿han notado algo diferente esta temporada?

La razón por la cual pregunto es que todavía no he visto mariposas en mi patio. No sé si se trata de que aún no las he podido ver o si algo irregular está ocurriendo.

He tratado de crear un entorno natural saludable que fomente las visitas rutinarias de la vida silvestre e insectos beneficiosos. Normalmente utilizo las técnicas de jardinería ecológica para proteger el medio ambiente. He sembrado arbustos y plantas perennes que supuestamente atraen abejas, mariposas y aves. En general, todas las plantas han florecido abundantemente este año. En la actualidad las pequeñas casitas de pájaros tienen sus habitantes tradicionales. Incluso los zumbadores han aparecido temprano esta temporada—pero las mariposas brillan por su ausencia.

Esperaba poder disfrutar el colorido paisaje a mi alrededor viendo a los pequeños visitantes revoloteándose en el aire mientras descansaba en mi balcón, pero parece que tendré que ser más paciente. No obstante, tengo dos opciones en el área metropolitana de Washington para ver mariposas provenientes de todo el mundo. Se trata de dos exposiciones. Una en el Museo de Historia Natural de la Institución Smithsonian llamada Mariposas + Plantas: Socios en la evolución que dura hasta el 10 de agosto y otra en los Jardines Brookside en Wheaton, MD llamada “Alas de fantasía” hasta el 21 de septiembre. Ambas son excelentes y las recomiendo para cualquiera que quiera ver estos coloridos insectos. Si está pasando por DC, estas exposiciones definitivamente merecen un par de horas de su tiempo.

Mientras tanto, espero que alguien me pueda aconsejar sobre cómo atraer las mariposas a mi jardín.

Celebrating the 45th Earth Day

by Jennie Saxe

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was held as a national “teach-in” on environmental issues. That day, rallies and conferences were held across the country to get Americans engaged in environmental protection. For a look at the first Earth Day rallies in Philadelphia, check out the history and videos compiled by the Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia, including footage from news reports on the first Earth Week.

As we celebrate the 45th Earth Day, staff in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office are participating in many events that honor the environmental education focus of the day. Even though the Healthy Waters blog is all about water, our Earth Day outreach featured much, much more!

Last Saturday, dozens of EPA employees took advantage of the beautiful weather to lace up their sneakers for the Clean Air Council’s Run for Clean Air. This race, beginning near the iconic steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, follows the Schuylkill River – a source of drinking water for the City of Philadelphia – for much of its route.

EPA staff shared information on sustainability at the Philadelphia Phillies' Red Goes Green game.

EPA staff shared information on sustainability at the Philadelphia Phillies’ Red Goes Green game.

Yesterday, EPA celebrated Earth Day all across the region. Employees shared tips to protect the environment with rail commuters at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, with students at the National Constitution Center, with sports fans at the Philadelphia Phillies’ Red Goes Green game, and with everyone working and living at Fort Meade in Maryland.

EPA educated students on native plants and more at the National Constitution Center's Earth Day event.

EPA educated students on native plants and more at the National Constitution Center’s Earth Day event.

But wait…the week isn’t over yet! Look for EPA at Temple-Ambler’s EarthFest on Friday, April 24, and at Core Creek Park for the Bucks County Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 25.

In case EPA’s Earth Day outreach didn’t make it to your neighborhood this year, check out these links for a “virtual Earth Day” experience:

  • Save water and money with WaterSense labeled products
  • Protect local waterways by disposing of expired medication properly
  • Use less water in your landscaping by planting species native to the mid-Atlantic – they’re easy to grow and create habitat for birds and butterflies
  • Keep pollution out of our streams by using green infrastructure to soak up rainwater in your yard

Earth Day doesn’t have to come just once a year! Let us know how you plan to make #EarthDayEveryDay.

 

About the author: Dr. Jennie Saxe joined EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region in 2003 and works in the Water Protection Division on sustainability programs. For Earth Day, she’s installing rain barrels to slow the flow of rainwater across her yard.

 

 

EPA Researchers in Duluth Profiled by White House for Protecting Honey Bee Habitat

By Lek Kadeli

About 10 years ago, EPA’s Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 1.9 acres of manicured lawn back into native prairie, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. This lab, recognized across the scientific community, centers its research on the effects of pollution and chemical exposures on the environment – particularly aquatic ecosystems, fish and wildlife.

The results of restoring the prairie have been inspiring. The lab saves $3,500 in maintenance costs every year, and EPA staff get to see butterflies, birds and spring and summer blooms that brighten their workdays. Instead of the periodic roar of lawnmowers, they can stroll the grounds during their breaks in quiet solitude, maybe even catching an occasional glimpse of deer, fox and other wildlife.

These 1.9 acres of prairie have also provided an important place for bees and other pollinators to thrive – and this relationship between the pollinators flying about and the habitat of native plants recently caught the attention of the White House. EPA’s Duluth Lab was highlighted in the recently-released White House document, Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The document supports President Obama’s memorandum recognizing the critical role pollinators play in food production and our economy.

Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to the nation’s agricultural crops each year, but populations of honey bees and other pollinators have declined over the past 50 years. EPA has taken a number of actions to protect pollinators – and there’s more to come.

There will be two listening sessions in the Washington, DC metro area, on November 12th and November 17th, where people can provide input into a federal strategy to be developed by the National Pollinator Health Task Force. The task force is co-chaired by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Key parts of the strategy will include a research action plan, public-private partnerships, public education about the importance of a healthy environment that includes pollinators, and ways to increase and improve pollinator habitat. Learn more about the listening sessions here.

The EPA has a vital part to play in protecting bees and other pollinators. Some lucky employees looking for inspiration for their work can get it just by stepping away from their desks for a stroll.

Catch the Latest Buzz from EPA Connect…

The following excerpt is cross-posted from “EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA leadership.”

EPA Researchers in Duluth Profiled by White House for Protecting Honey Bee Habitat

Bee in a bright yellow flower

By Lek Kadeli

About 10 years ago, EPA’s Research Laboratory in Duluth, Minnesota, turned 1.9 acres of manicured lawn back into native prairie, seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. This lab, recognized across the scientific community, centers its research on the effects of pollution and chemical exposures on the environment—particularly aquatic ecosystems, fish and wildlife.

EPA research lab surrounded by pollinator habitat.

EPA research lab surrounded by pollinator habitat.

The results of restoring the prairie have been inspiring. The lab saves $3,500 in maintenance costs every year, and EPA staff get to see butterflies, birds and spring and summer blooms that brighten their workdays. Instead of the periodic roar of lawnmowers, they can stroll the grounds during their breaks in quiet solitude, maybe even catching an occasional glimpse of deer, fox and other wildlife.

These 1.9 acres of prairie have also provided an important place for bees and other pollinators to thrive—and this relationship between the pollinators flying about and the habitat of native plants recently caught the attention of the White House. EPA’s Duluth Lab was highlighted in the recently-released White House document, Supporting the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The document supports President Obama’s memorandum recognizing the critical role pollinators play in food production and our economy.

Read the rest of the post.

Restoring a Watershed One Community at a Time

by Alicia N. Neal, MFA

In a city like New Orleans, community is everything. I remember when I would walk down the street, I’d speak to everyone I passed, and everyone would keep an eye out for one another. Everyone was our neighbor. Eight years ago, prior to Hurricane Katrina, walking around the Lower Ninth Ward meant passing several homes on every block. Now it means visiting one, maybe two, houses per block. As a result, a sense of community has disappeared from the area. With very few residents returning to the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, many lots stand vacant, some filled with weeds and trash, others still are home only to dilapidated buildings.

The few residents who have returned also gaze out over the ghostly remains of a former cypress swamp. Bayou Bienvenue, once a flourishing freshwater cypress-tupelo tree wetland where community members would hunt and fish, is now an urban swamp decimated by salt water intrusion which killed the vegetation, and weakened protection from high winds and water surges. Loss of the cypress trees made the Lower Ninth Ward more vulnerable to flooding from hurricanes. Without the natural barrier protection provided by the Bayou, a daily downpour can instantly incapacitate neighborhoods with floods.

For Lower Ninth Ward residents, there is a movement afoot to, in a sense, take back the streets through improved stormwater management. With the help of an EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant, Groundwork New Orleans assessed community needs to address issues of stormwater management, ecosystem restoration, and quality of life. In the midst of the assessment, we recognized a common theme: lack of communal connection. Residents had simple requests like planting more flowers to attract butterflies back to the area. As a result, a simple rain garden was installed to mitigate flooding and grew into a beautiful green space for neighbors to gather and get to know one another.

Central to this process was engaging local residents in identifying solutions. For example, we incorporated Lower Ninth Ward residents’ needs and input to create a site that removes toxins from stormwater and provides an educational and beautiful space for residents to enjoy. A corner lot at Caffin Avenue and North Prieur Street was selected to create a rain garden and community beautification site. The site, located near the Industrial Canal levee breech that inundated the neighborhood during Hurricane Katrina, contains a shade structure, rain garden, native plants, fruit trees, benches and educational signage. After but a few months, the site has become a communal space where neighbors can feel welcomed, help alleviate street flooding, and improve watershed health along with neighborhood aesthetic.

Members of the Green Team, our job training program for high school aged youth, are a part of the process from start to finish. The students learn about research methods, public speaking, community engagement, science, construction, and water testing. The students are gaining valuable life skills while making improvements in their community, like using GIS mapping to plot drainage problem areas along Caffin Avenue and conducting water quality testing in Bayou Bienvenue. The results compiled from these activities were presented to neighborhood residents and organizations. At each workshop the Green Team leads a hands-on activity to share what they have learned and educate the community.

The restoration of Bayou Bienvenue is an important part of the rebuilding of the community because it can provide opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and other activities for local residents. Engaging the community in understanding how a neighborhood-level watershed and habitat design can reduce susceptibility to flooding is helping to usher in a sense of communal connection so that we heal our community while helping to heal the environment.

About the Author: Alicia Neal, MFA is the Executive Director of Groundwork New Orleans. As a long time resident of New Orleans, she welcomes the opportunity to make a positive change in the city. She is also a mother and a visual artist who is inspired most by nature.

Ecofriendly Activities

With just a few weeks until the start of school, take the family out to enjoy what’s left of summer in the city! Check out our free ecofriendly activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

<a href=”http://conferencehouseparkconservancy.org/calendar.htm” target=”_blank”>Dunes, Drawing and Dendrology: Drawing ‘Chalk and Talk'</a>: Receive basic how-to instruction for exploring and capturing the varied landscapes of natural areas onto paper. No need to being art supplies as drawing material are provided in this introductory workshop. Conservancy House Park, Friday, August 15th, 10 a.m. to noon.

<a href=”http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2014/08/16/entomology-exploration” target=”_blank”>Entomology Exploration</a>: Join the Urban Park Rangers in an exploration of the shores of the Harlem Meer as you and your little ones enjoy the abundance and diversity of insects, including dragonflies, honey bees, damsel flies, and lady bugs. Central Park North, Saturday, August 16th, 11 a.m.

<a href=”http://socratessculpturepark.org/programevent/saturday-greenmarket/” target=”_blank”>GrowNYC Greenmarket</a>: Pick up farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, drop off your <a href=”http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2014/08/nycs-first-family-promotes-composting/” target=”_blank”>compost</a>, and enjoy the Manhattan skyline as you visit the farmer’s market in one of the city’s few free outdoor art exhibitions. Free Art Bus is also on call to shuttle visitors to many of LIC’s other famous art venues. Long Island City, Saturday, August 16th, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

<a href=”http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/summerstreets/html/route/activities.shtml” target=”_blank”>Midtown City Picnic</a>: Enjoy free samples, discover creative cooking, and learn about healthy school food in this Midtown picnic, and then follow it with a free bike rental. The picnic is a part of the annual Summer Streets program, when seven miles of NYC are closed off to cars for pedestrian and cyclist enjoyment. Park Avenue, Saturday, August 16th, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

<a href=”http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2014/08/17/nocturnal-wildlife” target=”_blank”>Nocturnal Wildlife</a>: Join the Urban Park Rangers as they guide you to the best wildlife viewing spots in the city, identify the nocturnal residents that call the park home, and teach you about the ecology and myths that surround these mysterious animals. Blue Heron Park Nature Center, Sunday, August 17th, 8 p.m.

<a href=”http://www.prospectpark.org/calendar/event/pop-up-audubon” target=”_blank”>Summer Fishing</a>: Children have the opportunity to learn about aquatic ecology, fishing safety, and how to use a rod and reel in this catch-and-release fishing program at Prospect Park Lake! Be prepared to get their paws dirty, because kids get to collect their own bait as well! Prospect Park Wellhouse, Saturday, August 16th, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

<a href=”http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/calendar/wildlife-theater-from-the-central-park-zoo-8/” target=”_blank”>Wildlife Theater from the Central Park Zoo</a>: Inspire the little ones in your life to learn more and care more about our natural world through an interactive performance using drama, puppetry, games, and songs. From penguins to polar bears, dinosaurs to butterflies, children leave the theater with a new wonder for the world around them. Poe Park, Friday, August 15th, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Upcoming Weekend Activities

The end of July means the middle of summer in the city, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

EarthCapades Eco-educational Circus: Bring your kids to watch the amazing tricks and flips of this circus troupe as they teach ecological diversity, the inherent right for all species to live in a safe and healthy environment, and how your little ones can be a hero for our planet today. Sunday, July 27th, noon to 1 p.m.

They Will Surf Again: Adults and children with all forms of disabilities are invited to an adaptive surfing clinic on the beach for a thrilling, one-of-a-kind experience. Volunteer swimmers and lifeguards are also welcome. Rockaway Beach, Sunday, July 27th, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Birding Canoe Adventure: Intermediate canoers are invited to explore the Hutchison River Estuary and the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary on the eight-mile paddles as you learn to identify the birds making homes on the bay. Pelham Bay Park, Sunday, July 27th, 11 a.m.

Garden Pollinators Walk: Join the American Museum of Natural History in a walk as you observe local pollinators, from everyone’s favorites (like honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies) to those more often overlooked (like solitary bees, beetles and other native pollinators). Free admission to Wave Hill until noon. Wave Hill, Saturday, July 26th, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Dragonflies Demystified: Bring your kids and your binoculars to learn about dragonflies and their special secrets, followed by a hike through the Greenbelt to let your little ones experience the colorful critters up close and personal. High Rock Park, Sunday, July 27th, 1 p.m.

Sandcastle Contest: Bring your bucket and tools to build sandcastles at this 20th annual contest with Urban Park Ranger activities and prizes for several age categories. Rockaway Beach, Sunday, July 27th, noon to 2 p.m.

Conservancy Garden Tour: Learn about the thousands of trees, flowers, shrubs, and perennials that decorate the Conservatory Garden from the horticulturalists who take care of this landmark within the Park. Central Park, Saturday, July 26th, 11 a.m. to noon.

Thunderbird American Indian Mid-summer PowWow: Enjoy a weekend of intertribal Native American dance competitions featuring 40 Indian Nations at the 317-year old Queens County Farm, the largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland in the city. $10 for adults, $5 for children. Queens County Farm Apple Orchard, July 25th – 27th, various start times.

Pollinator Week Had My Mind Abuzz

By Isabella Bennett

Last month’s pollinator protection week (June 16-22) got my mind buzzing, thinking about popular attitudes toward bees and other pollinators. Sadly, too many people fear, rather than appreciate, our busy little friends. Let me give you an example.

One spring afternoon, my friends and I were sitting outside our campus coffee shop talking about the latest bio exam when a big ol’ bee came buzzing around. When the bee flew just a bit too close to my friend’s nose, she leapt from her chair, grabbed her purse, and began frantically swatting and shrieking.  Needless to say, everyone nearby enjoyed the show. I couldn’t stop giggling as I led her back to her seat, allowing the bee to continue on her way. That day, I witnessed one pollinator in particular need of some protection!

My friend and many others fail to realize that many pollinators are pivotal to our environment and our national economy, and they need our protection.

Each year, pollinator week marks a time when we all should spread awareness and educate friends, family, and ourselves about the importance of pollinators – bees, butterflies, beetles, birds, bats, and others.  For example, they currently pollinate about one-third of the food we eat. Moreover, they’re accountable for 75% of all flowering plants! Recently, there have been declines in pollinator health because of habitat loss, disease, and pesticides. That’s why now is the time to bring as much awareness to the issue as possible.

There are steps you can take right now to help our pollinators. One of their main challenges is habitat loss; by planting native flowering plants, shrubs, and trees in our backyards, gardens and schools, you can create perfect rest stops and pollen refueling stations.  Another step you can take is reducing pesticide use, especially trying integrated pest management. If you do need to use a pesticide, pay particular attention to label directions; they explain how to safely use it and ultimately protect our pollinators and our environment.

Take a moment sometime this week to appreciate what pollinators do for you and consider what you could be doing for them.  I know I will.

About the author: Isabella Bennett is Environmental Business major at Texas A&M University.  She works as a summer intern in the Communications Services Branch in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. 

 

Making Your Yard Wildlife-Friendly

By Lina Younes

While enjoying the fall foliage on a recent walk with my dogs, I noticed that the birds seemed to be chirping more than usual. Perhaps they were saying goodbye to their friends, who were starting their trek to warmer settings.

Since not all birds are migratory in nature, how can we help those species that remain in northern areas, even during the winter? Personally, I’ve always debated whether it’s better to allow them to find their own food or have bird feeders. I’m concerned that, by providing bird feeders, we might be making birds more dependent on humans and interfere with their feeding habits. Either way, greenscaping is a great way to create a natural environment that’s friendly to many animals, including birds, butterflies, and bees.

Here are some tips to help you create this welcoming environment in your own backyard.

  • Plant native trees, bushes and plants, especially ones with berries, fruits and flowers.
    When planting your garden, plan in advance.
  • Plant shrubs and trees that will blossom at different times throughout the year so our feathered friends and wildlife will always have food available.
  • Check with your local cooperative extension office or environmental authorities to identify plants that will attract birds and wildlife in your area.
  • Consider composting at home to enrich your soil without using chemicals that may be harmful to birds and wildlife.

Have you seen any interesting birds in your area this fall? Have you taken steps to greenscape your yard? As always, we love to hear from you.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Spring Brings Many Things

By Lina Younes

As temperatures start to warm up during the early spring months, we begin to see flowers blooming and animals awakening from their winter slumber. Yet, there are some things that spring often brings that we don’t eagerly welcome. Bugs. No, I’m not talking about beneficial bugs like lady bugs, bees or butterflies, but household pests.

Recently, I had an ant infestation on the kitchen floor. I resisted the temptation of getting a can of bug spray and emptying it in my kitchen. I searched for the source of the infestation. Voila! I had left some dog food overnight in the dog’s bowl and the ants were having a party! So, I clean the bowls and the entire area and the ants decided to party somewhere else. It was simple.

The basic principles of integrated pest management consist of not providing any food, water or shelter to pests. If the pests don’t find anything that attracts them to your home or creates a cozy environment for them, they will essentially search for more inviting surroundings. So, what are some basic tips to prevent bugs and household pests for setting up shop in your home? Here are some suggestions:

  • Cleanliness is a great bug and pest deterrent.
  • Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink over night.
  • Don’t leave crumbs and spills on the table or floor. They only serve as bug magnets while you are away.
  • Repair leaks. Don’t let water accumulate around the kitchen, bathroom or flower pots.
  • Clear the clutter of newspapers, bags, and boxes. Clutter becomes a very cozy surrounding for unwanted pests.

If in spite of your best efforts household pests get into your home, select pesticides for the right pest and follow the instructions on the label closely. By following integrated pest management techniques, you’ll be able to have a healthier home for you and your family. Don’t send pests an open invitation unknowingly.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.