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Pollinator Conservation Program Digest – November 2019

By Cameron Newell on 26 November 2019

Select monthly updates from our team of restoration ecologists, entomologists, plant ecologists, and researchers.

The Xerces Society manages the largest pollinator conservation program in the world. We work with farmers, gardeners, land managers, agency staff, and others to create habitat for bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects—and hundreds of thousands of acres of flower-rich habitat have been planted. We also offer certifications: Bee Better Certification for farmers and food companies who are committed to supporting pollinator conservation in agricultural lands, and Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA certifications for cities and colleges dedicated to making the world safer for pollinators.

With staff based in more than a dozen states, and offering a diverse array of expertise, it can be challenging to summarize the impactful work being done by our team of restoration ecologists, entomologists, plant ecologists, and researchers. Therefore, we have compiled select pollinator conservation program updates into monthly digests. November's featured staff member, as both a Pollinator Conservation Specialist and our Bee Better Certified Program Coordinator, is working to transform agricultural landscapes by providing pollinator habitat and other key support for beneficial insects.

 

 

Changing Agricultural Landscapes in California through Pollinator Conservation

Cameron Newell, Pollinator Conservation Specialist, California and Bee Better Certified Program Coordinator

The drive south on I-5 just outside of Bakersfield, CA—with its mid-morning traffic jams and endless line of trucks—can feel more like a drive in the city than a journey through an agricultural expanse. But as I pass almonds, grapes, row crops, and stone fruit, anticipation builds for what lies ahead. On a blistering July morning, I am headed to the far reaches of the southern San Joaquin Valley to meet with an agronomist and a ranch manager that I have been working with for over a year on habitat projects. Today, I get to view firsthand the changes that some of their sites have undergone since I started this journey with them. As I pull up, friendly faces greet me and excitement washes over me. The habitat, that was planted only eight months earlier, is doing well—very well, in fact.

Where there was a sparse smattering of plants last November, there is now a dense thicket. And due to some late rain and the weekly irrigation through the heat of the early summer there are goldenrod and bladderpod that have reached four feet in height. The buckwheat is a mass of flowers—and bees, flies, and wasps from the surrounding area have discovered its bounty. An area that was the bank of a sandy wash is now high-quality, flowering habitat supporting an abundance of bees and other beneficial insects. All of this transpired in eight short months. What will it look like a few years from now?

Through supply chain initiatives over the past couple years, food industry partners have collaborated with the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program on over 30 projects in the western United States—just like the one described above. This commitment to pollinator conservation is paying off: The many sites I have visited over the past six months are attracting and supporting a huge diversity of bees, butterflies, beneficial insects, song birds, reptiles, and mammals. As the miles of hedgerows and acres of habitat expand in landscapes like the San Joaquin, so too will the populations of insects that we count on for our well-being.

 

This is a two-part image. On the left is a dry, arid, agricultural landscape with a lot of bare dirt. On the right is the same landscape, but with a flowering hedgerow that recedes into the distance, and a small, gray butterfly perched on a small, thin branch with flowers in the foreground.
In less than a year, the bank of a sandy wash transformed into high-quality, flowering habitat supporting an abundance of pollinators and other beneficial insects. (Photos: Xerces Society / Cameron Newell)


 

Authors

Cameron manages the day-to-day operations of the Xerces Society's food industry supply chain projects in California, Oregon and Washington, coordinating with partner organizations and individual landowners to promote pollinator conservation. Cameron also coordinates Bee Better Certified, a food industry certification program managed by Xerces that works with farmers and food companies to conserve bees and other pollinators in agricultural lands.

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