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Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQs about the Xerces Society

Invertebrate FAQs

Plant & Habitat FAQs

Pesticide FAQs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAQs about the Xerces Society

Yes indeed! Please see our Donation and Membership FAQs, or please contact our membership team: [email protected], (855) 232-6639, option #2.

Are you hiring?

Please check our job opportunities page for current listings. Please note that we cannot answer inquiries about employment opportunities via phone, email, or social media.

How do I start volunteering?

Thank you for your interest! Please see our volunteer page for more information.

Do you have a brick-and-mortar location that I can visit?

While we do have a few offices across the United States—including our headquarters in Portland, Oregon—we don't have a visitors' center. The best way to experience the Xerces Society is by attending an event; please see our events page for a list of upcoming talks, workshops, and other gatherings—which we host across the U.S.!

Where does the Xerces Society's name come from?

We take our name from the now-extinct Xerces blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), the first butterfly known to go extinct in North America as a result of human activities. The Xerces blue's habitat was destroyed by development in the sand dunes of San Francisco, and the species was declared extinct by the 1940s.

You can read more about what inspired our founder, Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, in The Xerces Story.

How do you pronounce 'Xerces'?

Our name is pronounced Zer-sees, or /ˈzɚˌsiz/.

 

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Invertebrate FAQs

What is an invertebrate, and why are they important?

Invertebrates are, by definition, animals without spines (backbones). They include creatures like arthropods (insects, arachnids, and crustaceans), mollusks (snails, squids, and octopuses), annelids (earthworms and leeches), and cnidarians (jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals). With well over one million species, insects and other invertebrates vastly outnumber all other animal species, and form the foundation of many ecosystems.

Invertebrates are important parts of food chains, feeding creatures like salmon, bears, and birds. Invertebrates also provide key services like pollinating wildflowers and crops (learn more about pollinators here), maintaining water quality (learn more about freshwater mussels here), and keeping pest populations under control (learn more about beneficial insects here). All of this and more is why we refer to the work of conserving invertebrates as "protecting the life that sustains us."

Learn more about invertebrates here!

Can you help me identify an insect?

Unfortunately, we don't always have the time to assist with insect identification, but we can point you towards some great resources:

I want to report an invertebrate sighting, and/or seasonal changes in populations.

Please consider submitting this information to a community science project⁠—the Xerces Society and partners manage quite a few! By submitting a sighting, you will not only get to learn more about the invertebrate you saw, but also you'll be contributing to a long-term, large-scale data collection effort that will enhance scientific understanding of various invertebrate species. Please refer to our community science page to find a suitable project.

I have a question about honey bees. Can you help me?

For questions regarding honey bees, honey bee nests, or swarms, please contact your state honey beekeepers association for assistance.

Can you help me get rid of unwanted bees/bugs around my property?

Please understand that the Xerces Society is not a pest control organization. We recommend visiting Living with Bugs for do-it-yourself home pest control remedies. We especially do not recommend relocating bumble bee nests, but if you must, please visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's website.

Can you give me advice on buying/raising/releasing insects?

We do not have information on where or how to purchase live insects. In general, we do not recommend releasing any captive-raised insects into the wild—including monarchs.

For species-specific questions:

Please see our contact page.

 

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Plant & Habitat FAQs

Can you help me identify this plant?

Unfortunately, we often don't have the time to answer inquiries like this, but our friends at BudBurst have some good resources for plant identification. If you're specifically interested in identifying a milkweed species in the western U.S., please refer to the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper⁠—there you can both get assistance with ID, and contribute to a community science effort, all at once!

What are the best pollinator plants?

That varies regionally. Please see our Polllinator Conservation Resource Center to find species suitable for your area.

Where can I find native seeds/plants?

Please see our Polllinator Conservation Resource Center to find local vendors and region-specific plant lists.

Where can I find native milkweed?

Please see our Milkweed Seed Finder to locate a vendor near you. For other milkweed questions, please see our milkweed FAQ page.

I have a question about milkweed. Can you help?

Please see our milkweed FAQ page.

I'd like to establish pollinator habitat on my property or in my community. How do I get started?

Thanks for your interest in supporting pollinators! We recommend adhering to the principles of our Pollinator Protection Pledge, which can be adapted to a variety of landscapes: Grow pollinator-friendly flowers, provide nest sites, avoid pesticides, and spread the word. For more detailed information, including region-specific plant lists, habitat installation guides, native seed vendors, and more, please see our Polllinator Conservation Resource Center.

I'd like to earn the Xerces Society's pollinator habitat sign. How do I get certified?

There is no official certification associated with our pollinator habitat signs. Use of the sign is based on the honor system, and we ask that those who display the our habitat sign adhere to our Pollinator Protection Pledge, which involves four basic principles: Grow native, pollinator-friendly flowers; provide and protect grounds for natural nesting and foraging of pollinators; reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides; and spread the word about why pollinators are important and what everyone can do to help them.

The signs themselves are available as a thank-you gift for those who make a donation to the Xerces Society⁠—please see our Gift Center for details.

Do you have a certification program?

We do not offer certifications for individuals (see above), but the Xerces Society does offer two certifications:

For more specific questions about plants & habitat:

We recommend checking out our Publications Library—a searchable database of books, guidelines, fact sheets, and more, written by Xerces Society staff and partners. You may also find additional, region-specific information and contacts at:

 

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Pesticide FAQs

Can you help me get rid of unwanted bees/bugs around my property?

Please understand that the Xerces Society is not a pest control organization. We recommend visiting Living with Bugs for do-it-yourself home pest control remedies. We especially do not recommend relocating bumble bee nests, but if you must, please visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's website.

Are chemicals other than insecticides considered pesticides?

Yes, the term “pesticide” is an umbrella term and includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and even anti-bacterial products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines pesticides as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest” and a pest is defined as: “any insect, rodent, nematode, fungus, weed…” Lengthier definitions can be found in Section 2(u) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

There are many definitions of integrated pest management (IPM). The Xerces Society promotes IPM as an ecosystem-based strategy focused on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as conservation biological control, habitat manipulation and modification of cultural practices. Pesticides, both conventional and organic, are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of managing only the target organism. All pest management materials are selected and used in a manner that minimizes risk to beneficial and non-target organisms.

What can I do at home to protect pollinators from pesticides?

Pesticides should hardly ever be needed in a home garden. Pesticides, which include insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, are part of the reason our pollinator species are struggling. Avoiding their use helps reduce stress on already vulnerable bees, butterflies and other invertebrate pollinators. The best way to avoid pesticides is to have healthy, resilient plants that don’t attract many pests and are able to survive feeding by any pests that may arrive. It is also important reconsider your tolerance for pest damage, and avoid cosmetic pesticide use. A few holes in the leaves of garden plants can indicate a thriving ecosystem and are generally not cause for concern. Sometimes insects feeding on plants can cause leaves to turn yellow or brown, but infestations rarely kill the plants. You can learn more about how to avoid pesticide use in your home garden here!

How can my community respond to mosquitoes without causing undue harm to pollinators?

With a changing climate expanding the range of some mosquito species and international travel bringing more people in contact with those mosquitoes that carry disease, there is growing concern about new mosquito-borne diseases establishing themselves in the United States. Creating an integrated mosquito management plan that focuses on prevention and early intervention goes a long way towards ensuring an effective and ecologically sound response. While each community must create a plan that best fits its own needs, integrated mosquito-management plans have similar core components. (1) Careful monitoring identifies the species of mosquitoes present and determines the degree of risk that they pose. (2) Removal of stagnant water that serves as breeding ground for mosquitoes. (3) In situations where disease-causing mosquitos are identified, biological and sometimes chemical options can be used to kill mosquito larvae. (4) Individuals should take responsibility for protecting themselves from mosquitoes by draining artificial breeding grounds on their property, wearing long sleeves when mosquitoes are active and keeping screens on windows and doors in good repair. Insecticide treatments to kill adult mosquitoes—adulticides— should be a last resort if at all. Backyard products such as mosquito misters or vaporizers which emit insecticides should never be used. You can learn more about ecologically sound mosquito management here!

Are fungicides a concern for bees?

Fungicides have long been considered relatively harmless for bees. However, a number of recent studies are calling this assumption into question. Research has shown that some fungicides kill bees on contact. Studies are also documenting that some fungicides synergize with (increase the toxic effects of) certain insecticides. Fungicide exposure has also been linked to higher levels of parasitic and viral infections in honey bee colonies, suggesting that some fungicides may impair a bee’s ability to fight disease. The Xerces Society’s fact sheet Protecting Pollinators from Pesticides: Fungicide Impacts on Pollinators reviews the current literature on fungicides and pollinators to help piece together potential risks and how best to respond.

Is following a pesticide label enough to protect pollinators?

The EPA has recently taken steps to limit the harm caused by some of the most toxic insecticides. Still, current regulation still doesn’t achieve conservation. Current pesticide uses, allowed by federal regulation, are still leading to significant contamination and harm. 

Xerces works with farmers, home gardeners and other pesticide users to change their practices to reduce reliance on pesticides and emphasizes non-chemical prevention and management techniques. Learn more about our pesticide program here.

What are the major concerns with neonicotinoids?

Insecticides are the most likely to kill or otherwise harm pollinators. Broad-spectrum insecticides, which lack selectivity for pests, would harm bees if applied on or near where bees are foraging. Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that are used widely on farms, as well as around our homes, schools, and city landscapes. Neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts, including nectar and pollen. Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by the residues. Learn more about neonicotinoids here.

For more specific questions about the risks pesticides pose to bees and other invertebrates:

There are many excellent resources that summarize information regarding pesticides and their potential impacts on invertebrates. The Bee Precaution tool was developed by the University of California Statewide Agricultural & Natural Resources Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) to help identify pesticides that can harm pollinators. The guidance How to Reduce Bee Poisonings from Pesticides also provides valuable information regarding the risks of many common pesticides, it is available as an app or in report form. If you want a more comprehensive tool to assess specific pesticide uses and their potential impact you should consider using the Pesticide Risk Tool.

Xerces also has a number of quick resources that can help you understand potential risk, including: a database summarizing research pertaining to the impacts pesticides have on invertebrates, our guidance document that reviews many commonly used organic pesticides, our resources on neonicotinoid insecticides as well as our fact sheet on fungicides. You can also browse our Publications Library for a variety of books, fact sheets, and other materials relevant to your question. If you are still having trouble finding what you need, please email [email protected].

 

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