Xerces Blog Archive


Bumble Bees and Baptisia: A Pollination Story

Published on June 21, 2016

Plants use many “tricks” to entice insects into the work of pollination. The shape, color, and bloom period of a plant’s flowers can greatly influence who their potential pollinator mate may be. Such is the case when considering the relationship between bumble bees and flowers in the genus Baptisia. There are two plants of the Read more …


Farm by Farm: 150 Pollinator Habitat Projects

Published on June 20, 2016

Ensuring that pollinators and other beneficial insects have safe, high-quality habitat has been the cornerstone of the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program over the last two decades. Xerces has built a team of experts that work tirelessly toward this goal across a range of landscapes, including gardens, roadsides, parks, golf courses, and natural areas, but Read more …


Partnering for Pollinators

Published on

The Xerces Society works with many partners in pollinator conservation. These partners include local, state, and federal agencies; farmers; land managers; seed companies; other conservation groups; and volunteers. We’re thankful for the support of these partnerships which make large-scale pollinator conservation efforts possible. Below is a sampling of partnership projects from the past year. Port Read more …


Helping Monarch Conservation Take Flight

Published on June 16, 2016

The Xerces Society has been a proponent of monarch butterfly conservation for decades. In the early 1980s, Xerces founder Robert Michael Pyle and Lincoln Brower worked to list the monarch migration as an endangered phenomenon with the IUCN, and the Society’s first employee was hired to conserve California overwintering sites at that time. In the Read more …


The Value of Protecting Pollinators

Published on June 9, 2016

If you’re reading this, chances are you have at least a passing interest in protecting pollinators.  Maybe you are motivated by Colony Collapse Disorder and its impact on honey bee populations. Maybe you’re a farmer who’s primary interest is in crop yields. Perhaps you’re a naturalist who is interested in the ecological benefits of pollinators. Read more …


Celebrate Pollinators!

Published on June 6, 2016

Pollinators bring us the wildflowers of spring, the berries of summer, the pumpkins we carve into jack-o’-lanterns in fall. Our dinner tables would be less enticing without them: approximately three-quarters of crop plant species need a bee or other pollinator, which translates to roughly one-third of the food and drink that we consume. More than Read more …


Xerces in Your Grocery Store: Working to Make the Food You Eat Better for Bees

Published on May 25, 2016

Over the past decade the Xerces Society has helped farmers contribute to the creation of over 250,000 acres of pollinator habitat nationwide (and to reduce pesticide use on those lands), but it has been challenging to track food produced on that cropland all the way to the plate. To better connect consumers with products that Read more …


Using Technology and Citizen Science to Understand Dragonfly Migration

Published on April 27, 2016

Given the wide geographic scope of dragonfly migration, citizen-science observations are critical to furthering knowledge of this remarkable behavior. Our understanding of the migration phenomenon in dragonflies has advanced as engagement in Migratory Dragonfly Partnership projects soar across North America. Now 1,000-strong, MDP’s volunteer network has helped reveal several insights into the behavior and seasonal Read more …


Citizen science is a wonderful thing

Published on April 21, 2016

There is much yet to be learned about insects and other invertebrates but simply not enough people observing their behavior and documenting their existence to be able to fill in the blanks of our knowledge. After all, there are tens of thousands of species to be found in each region of North America. By drawing Read more …


Island Marble Butterfly: Slipping Towards Extinction

Published on April 5, 2016

On Tuesday, April 5, 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that the island marble butterfly (Euchloe ausonides insulanus) is in danger of extinction but that protection under the Endangered Species Act is “precluded by higher priority listing actions.” The Service declined to grant this butterfly protection through an emergency listing process, Read more …


Helping Pollinators on the Road to Survival

Published on March 30, 2016

On Monday, March 28, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a memo regarding the pollinator provisions in section 1415 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and announcing the release of “Pollinators and Roadsides: Best Management Practices for Managers and Decision Makers.” The report can be read on the FHWA web site, Read more …


DeWind Awards: Investing in the future of Lepidoptera conservation

Published on March 28, 2016

The Xerces Society began as a butterfly conservation organization—hence our name—and these beautiful animals remain at the heart of who we are. We work with farmers and park managers, gardeners and agency biologists to protect butterflies and other invertebrates and ensure they have a place to live. This work has always been rooted in science, drawing Read more …


Responding to Zika virus

Published on February 25, 2016

As a parent it is heart-wrenching to see the photos of children in Brazil that have been born with microcephaly, and it is very worrying to consider that the steep rise in this birth defect may be caused by a mosquito-borne disease. The cause of these birth defects is not fully understood but they are Read more …


Research Update: Are bee diseases linked to pesticides?

Published on February 16, 2016

The issue of pesticide impacts on bees is of key interest to many people. In time, we’ll also be gathering this information onto a page on our web site. The recently published article, Are bee diseases linked to pesticides?—A brief review (Sanchez-Bayo et al. 2016), infused valuable insights into the discussion about pollinator decline. The Read more …


5 Tips for Better Insect Photography

Published on February 8, 2016

As a natural history photographer who specializes in photographing insects and other small creatures, I sometimes wonder why everyone isn’t as obsessed with the little things in life as I am. When I peer through my camera’s viewfinder and look into the eyes of a jumping spider, or marvel at the amazing structure of a Read more …


Butterflies and Volunteers: The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count

Published on February 4, 2016

The final results from the Xerces Society’s annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count have just been released, and the numbers are promising. Volunteers visited 187 sites this year and counted 271,924 monarchs, which is higher than last year. However, the average number of monarchs per site is not significantly different from last year, and this year’s Read more …


EPA’s Preliminary Risk Assessment for the Neonicotinoid Insecticide, Imidacloprid

Published on January 7, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, which shows a threat to some pollinators. The EPA’s assessment indicates that the highly toxic, long-lived neonicotinoid imidacloprid “potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators…” While we Read more …


Surprises in the Field: Discovering a New Population of a Bog-Associated Butterfly

Published on December 22, 2015

One of the greatest thrills of fieldwork is finding an unexpected or undescribed species at a field site. As a conservation biologist who studies invertebrates, I probably get more than my fair share of new encounters. The numbers are certainly in my favor: invertebrates make up over 90 percent of all known animal species on Read more …


A First Glimpse at the State of Western Monarchs

Published on December 14, 2015

Throughout this last summer, people from across the western United States were telling us about monarchs they had seen. Particularly notable were the reports from places where monarchs are not usually seen, including Oregon’s Willamette Valley and even here in Portland. Coming at a time when there is a renewed interest in this remarkable long-distance Read more …


The Crystal Skipper: North Carolina’s Newest Butterfly Species

Published on December 3, 2015

The beautiful beaches of the central North Carolina coast, known as the Crystal Coast in tourist brochures, are well known to beachgoers, birdwatchers, and shell hunters. Less well known is a small brown butterfly living amongst the sand dunes which, until last week, had no official name; it has now been formally described in the Read more …


The Value of Science

Published on December 1, 2015

Science is the foundation of our work here at the Xerces Society. It underpins everything we do. We undertake applied research to determine the extent of decline for bumble bees, freshwater mussels, butterflies, and many other invertebrates. We work with landowners and land management agencies to determine where at-risk species occur, so we can target Read more …


Rethinking Pesticides

Published on November 24, 2015

This post was originally published in the fall 2015 issue of Wings. Essays on Invertebrate Conservation, the Xerces Society’s membership magazine. Pesticides have been used to control insects for millennia. We know that the ancient Romans burned sulfur to kill insect pests; centuries later, in the 1600s, people were using a mixture of honey and Read more …


Study Finds High Levels of Pesticides in Wild Bees Foraging in Farmland

Published on November 18, 2015

For bees living in and around farmland, pesticides are a daily hazard. The risk is widely recognized and much effort has been put into assessing the impacts on honey bees, the workhorse of much crop pollination. However, there has been very little research into the impact of pesticides on the thousands of species of native Read more …


All Aboard the Monarch Express

Published on November 13, 2015

Of all the butterflies in North America, the monarch can probably claim the largest fan club. Over recent decades, love for the monarch spawned a network of loyal enthusiasts growing milkweed and creating backyard oases across the country. Despite this, years of declining populations in both the eastern and western U.S. led to a petition Read more …


Pausing to Catch our Breath, Updates From Our 2015 Staff Retreat

Published on October 28, 2015

One of the most striking things about our recent staff retreat was the number of people in the room — indeed, the size of the room we needed. We now have 40 people on staff. Looking back to when I first started working at Xerces, when there was a staff of four, this seems an Read more …


Trick or Treat? A Seasonal Tale of Pumpkins and Pests

Published on

Edward Gorey, the artist and author famous for his dark imagery, was a great advocate of animals, large and small, all over the world. The Xerces Society receives support through his legacy at the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust. Please enjoy this surreal tale of conservation biological control, inspired by Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest, first published in Read more …


Releasing Monarch Butterflies is Not a Good Conservation Strategy

Published on October 8, 2015

Breeding and releasing monarch butterflies might seem like a harmless activity, something that might even help struggling populations. Unfortunately, the practice holds the potential to actually harm wild monarchs and disrupt research that is critical to their conservation. Demonstrating the breadth of concern that exists over this practice, the Xerces Society has joined with the Read more …


ID Dragonflies and Locate Hotspots: Introducing the New Dragonfly ID App!

Published on October 3, 2015

Calling all nature enthusiasts! Do you have a smartphone and want to use it to explore, identify, and marvel at the diversity of dragonfly and damselfly fauna in your backyard, local wetland, or favorite trout stream? Well, now you can! We are pleased to introduce Dragonfly ID, a first-of-its-kind app brought to you by the Read more …


Hawai‘ian Yellow-Faced Bees: The First U.S. Bees Proposed for ESA Protection

Published on September 30, 2015

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Hawai‘i with my family. What a wonderful vacation! Beautiful beaches, kayaking, sea turtles, fresh pineapple, fabulous tropical gardens, volcanoes—but I also went in hunt of bees. I found bees in the gardens of the first place we stayed. But the carpenter bees and honey bees were not Read more …


Xerces Goes Island Hopping for Bees

Published on September 24, 2015

How do you restore a 50-acre native wildflower meadow for bees on an island in the middle of the Columbia River? It’s simple. Working with the Port of Portland, and seed company Pacific Northwest Natives, we loaded up a barge with a tractor, a truck, a drill seeder, hundreds of pounds of seed, and half Read more …


Good News for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Published on September 21, 2015

Friday was a good day for the rusty patched bumble bee. After decades of declining populations and a nearly 90% contraction in range, it was given a glimmer of hope for a future: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a positive 90-day finding in response to an Endangered Species Act petition requesting listed as Read more …


Expanding Our Impact with New Staff

Published on September 4, 2015

In the conservation world, change often happens at a frustratingly slow pace. Every so often, however, an issue will gain amazing momentum and great things are suddenly happening all the time. Such is the case with our Pollinator Program here at Xerces. We’ve got a ton of things going on, which has necessitated the addition Read more …


Red Listing North America’s bumblebees

Published on July 22, 2015

This blog was originally posted on the IUCN Red List’s website This spring has been busy for bumblebee conservation in North America. Over the last several months I have been working with other IUCN SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group members to complete the IUCN Red List assessments of all North American bumblebees. In April, I also Read more …


Climate Change Driving, Not the Only Passenger; Bumble Bee Conservation in Context

Published on July 16, 2015

On Thursday July 9, 2015, a paper about the effects of climate change on bumble bee ranges was published in the journal Science by Dr. Jeremy Kerr and several colleagues. This is an impressive body of research and does much to further our understanding of landscape-scale effects on insects. Understandably, this research has garnered a Read more …


How Farmers Are Doing Their Part to Bring Back the Pollinators: A California Case Study

Published on June 27, 2015

It all started with a question: What can large-scale food production and labeling operations do to help pollinators? The Importance of Habitat There are a lot of ways for all of us to help bees, but farmers are in a unique position to make a huge impact. There are over 100 pollinator-dependent crops grown in Read more …


Staff Pollinator Picks #11 and 12

Published on June 25, 2015

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. Here are staff pollinator favorites #11 and 12! Painted lady Read more …


Staff Pollinator Picks #9 and 10

Published on June 22, 2015

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. Here are the ninth and tenth picks in our series Read more …


Staff Pollinator Picks #7 and 8

Published on June 17, 2015

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. Here are two more of their picks. Syrphid fly (Toxomerus Read more …


Staff Pollinator Picks #4, 5, and 6!

Published on June 11, 2015

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. Here are another three of their picks! Large carpenter bee Read more …


Are you up for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge?

Published on June 10, 2015

The National Pollinator Garden Network is a newly created partnership of organizations involved with pollinator conservation, wildlife gardening, and gardens. The network was initiated as part of the White House’s National Pollinator Strategy and is coordinated by the National Wildlife Federation. It draws together nearly two dozen nonprofits and organizations with a shared aim, to Read more …


Staff Pollinator Pick #3: Blue-winged wasp (Scolia dubia)

Published on June 7, 2015

The more I learn about their behaviors, the more I love insect pollinators! My new favorite is the blue-winged wasp, Scolia dubia. These wasps are solitary. After emerging from the ground (where they grew up and overwintered), they do a courtship dance before mating. Then, each mated female will hover over lawns or gardens searching Read more …


Staff Pollinator Pick #2: Sunflower Bee (Svastra obliqua)

Published on June 5, 2015

Named for its penchant for frequenting sunflowers, female bees of this species appear to prefer to collect pollen from sunflowers and other fall-blooming plants in the family Asteraceae. Although the common name, sunflower bee, can be applied to a number of fall-flying bees, I find this robust, large species particularly striking. I’m also fascinated by Read more …


Pollinator Conservation Crosses a National Threshold

Published on June 4, 2015

The newly released National Strategy to Protect Pollinators and Their Habitat represents a threshold moment in pollinator conservation. Two decades ago, the issue was barely discussed. When Xerces staff attended a national meeting of the pioneering organizations in 1996, it could be held around a single conference table. Ten years ago, interest had grown and Read more …


Staff Pollinator Pick #1: Euglossa dilemma

Published on June 3, 2015

Everybody probably has a favorite insect. We thought it would be fun to ask our pollinator staff to suggest their favorite pollinator. With so many pollinators to choose from, it gives a glimpse into the diversity that’s out there waiting to be watched and enjoyed. We’ll be posting one staff pick every other day. We Read more …


Help Protect Our Beloved Butterflies

Published on May 29, 2015

Monarch butterflies are among North America’s most loved species. Growing up in Nebraska, I remember seeing thousands of these butterflies visiting fields of wildflowers; I know that many of you grew up with similar experiences. Unfortunately, our children and grandchildren may not have the same opportunity to witness the beauty of monarchs flying across native Read more …


A Mother-and-son Perspective on a Pollinator Garden

Published on May 28, 2015

In honor of Mother’s Day, we thought it would be nice to have a mother’s perspective on pollinator gardening. Alice Vaughan wrote a lovely narrative of her bee garden on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Alice’s son, Mace (who co-directs our pollinator program), added his memories of sharing in the garden. Alice’s View of Her Garden Read more …


Delectable Native Plants Attract a Very Special Crowd

Published on May 20, 2015

What do cherries, plums, serviceberries, black raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and crab apples have in common (apart from making your mouth water)? What about blueberries, cranberries, teaberries, and kinnikinnick? All are fruits of North American plants pollinated by native bees, flies, and other insects. Cherries and company are all in the rose family, while blueberries and Read more …


Wildflowers, Harbingers of Spring

Published on April 28, 2015

The delicate blossoms of spring wildflowers are often the first splashes of color after a long winter. Some, like pasque flowers (Pulsatilla spp.), even push their blooms up through the snow. Spring wildflowers are a welcome sight for tickle bees and other early-emerging pollinators at a time when nectar and pollen sources can be scarce, Read more …