It’s National Pollinator Week at the Saint Louis Zoo
One out of every three bites of food we eat depends on pollinators. Honeybees, bumblebees and other insects, birds and small mammals pollinate over 90 percent of the planet’s flowering plants and one third of human food crops.
June 18-24 has been declared “National Pollinator Week” to recognize the importance of pollinators for the health of ecosystems as well as our own survival.
During this week, the Monsanto Insectarium will host keeper chats, demonstrations on attracting bees to gardens, identifying different types of bees, beekeeping and more. The Painted Giraffe restaurant will offer daily specials featuring food provided by pollinators.
Pollinator Dinner: The Zoo is offering a special “Pollinator Dinner” on Thursday, June 21 in The Living World. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with a honey tasting, informational booths and cash bar serving mead. Guests may make a “bee hotel” to take home for their gardens. The gourmet dinner buffet includes salads, sides, main courses and desserts prepared with ingredients provided by pollinators, such as almonds, strawberries, lemons, a variety of vegetables, honey, chocolate and more. After dinner, the Zoo’s curator of invertebrates, Ed Spevak, will speak about simple ways humans can help bees, and how bees are beneficial to humans. Reservations are $31.50 for adults and $20 for children ages 12 and under and can be made by calling (314) 646-4897. Proceeds benefit the Zoo.
Pollinator Conservation: The Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation focuses on the importance and diversity of native pollinators for the maintenance and survival of wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture.
The Center is working with community garden groups to educate individuals about native bees and develop best bee practices to ensure optimal fruit and vegetable production. The Center is also working with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri Beekeepers Association to develop education and outreach initiatives for farmers and others on the value of bees and other pollinators for food production.
Bee surveys are being conducted in the St. Louis area to examine bee diversity and abundance and identify possible areas of conservation concern. Zoo researchers are also surveying bee populations in Forest Park’s restored prairies in cooperation with Forest Park Forever and St. Louis Parks Department.
There are over 20,000 species of bees in the world, more than all species of birds and mammals put together, according to Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the Zoo.
“Many of the more than 4,000 native bees in North America are actually far better pollinators than honey bees for crops like alfalfa, clover, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, squashes and more,” says Spevak. “But more importantly, they are invaluable to the functioning of many habitats and to the birds and other animals that feed on the seeds, nuts and fruits from the labors of these pollinators.
“Unfortunately, a number of native bees are disappearing. Everyone from local homeowners to farmers to conservationists can help the bees as well as other pollinators by growing a wildflower garden, protecting habitat and reducing our use of pesticides and herbicides. Everyone can participate in the conservation of this group of animals,” says Spevak.
The Saint Louis Zoo’s website now offers directions on how to build bee nesting boxes, in addition to tips on how to plant pollinator gardens and identification guides for Missouri and Illinois bees.
For more information, visit www.stlzoo.org/pollinators.