Interested in Pollinator Conservation? Training Courses Coming to the South in 2012

By: Candace Pollock, Southern SARE
August 29, 2011

Eric Mader teaches a pollinator conservation course

Eric Mader (right) teaches a pollinator conservation course. Photo credit: Mandy Rodrigues, SARE outreach

GRIFFIN, Ga. – Farmers, Extension agents, Federal and state farm agency personnel, and others interested in pollinator conservation will have the opportunity to attend training programs throughout the Southern region beginning in 2012.

The Xerces Society, a non-profit invertebrate conservation organization, has received funding from the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program to develop and conduct pollinator conservation planning short courses throughout the country. The short courses will be coming to the South next year with the primary focus on native bee conservation.

“There are 4,000 species of native bees in North America, from small solitary mining bees to large and highly social bumble bees, all of which can be important pollinators for agriculture,” said Eric Mader, assistant pollinator program director for The Xerces Society. “With their numbers declining, just like the honey bee, it’s important that people are educated in identifying these bees and taking measures to try and conserve their populations and protect their habitats.”

The states tentatively scheduled for the 2012 pollinator short courses include North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Virginia, with the remaining states in the Southern region being covered in 2013. For now, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not on the list.

The pollinator short courses are comprehensive one-day training programs tailored to Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, Soil and Water Conservation District specialists, and state ag agencies. The program is also targeted to farmers, crop consultants, non-governmental conservation organization staff, and others interested in pollinator conservation.

Attendees get a crash course in basic bee field identification, pollinator biology and habitat requirements, habitat restoration, bee-friendly farm management practices, and incorporating pollinator conservation into federal conservation programs. Attendees also receive take-home resources, including the Xerces Society’s guide, Attracting Native Pollinators.

The Xerces Society developed the short course curriculum in 2008 and test piloted it in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri. Since then, the pollinator short courses have been attended by over 1,200 people in 23 states across the country and have received overwhelming positive responses.

“In every case, the courses have exceeded our expectations. There has been such great demand to attend the courses that we’ve leveraged funds from other sources to increase the number of courses we offer in many states,” said Mader.

Mader estimates that the average participant has influenced about 100 acres of farmland to benefit pollinators by simply changing practices, such as mitigating the effects of pesticides, improving mowing practices, or increasing flower diversity and nest sites.

Mader believes that the short courses have been successful, in part, because they focus on wildlife nearly all are familiar with, and the conservation efforts can have a direct impact.

“Bees are tangible. They are something that people can see and relate to, as opposed to topics like climate change, which can be very intangible,” said Mader. “In addition, you can see the results of conservation efforts. The more invested one becomes, the more you directly see the results.”

Pollinator conservation not only protects bees, but it also has wider benefits for other wildlife and the environment, said Mader.

“By creating habitat for bees, you are also benefiting other beneficial insects —including those that attack crop pests. Pollinator habitat can also be incorporated into buffer systems that protect soil and water, and support other wildlife such as game and songbirds,” said Mader. “The conservation impact has a much broader reach than one may realize.”

For more information on The Xerces Society, log on to For more information on upcoming pollinator conservation planning short courses, contact Eric Mader at, or stay tuned to our website for additional information as it becomes available.

Read the article in Southern SARE