87% of flowering plants world-wide depend on pollinators in order to reproduce, yet many pollinator species have declined over the past couple decades. Researching and monitoring species populations are essential for determining and evaluating conservation efforts: ¥ For the winter of 2016-2017, beekeepers experienced a loss of about 21.1% of honey bee colonies, 5.8% less than the previous winter and below the 10-year average. When combined with the 2016 summer loss of 18.1%, the results showed “the second lowest rate of annual colony loss recorded over the last seven years.” 1 ¥ In 2015-2016, monarch butterfly colonies occupied 4.01 hectares of the forestry surface in Mexico. Trilateral actions taken by Mexico, Canada, and the US may have aided in this six-fold increase from 2013-2014, which recorded the lowest levels since 1993.2 ¥ Within the past two decades, Bombus occidentalis (western bumble bee), B. pensylvanicus (American bumble bee), B. affinis (rusty-patched bumble bee) and B. terricola (yellow-banded bumble bee) have declined by up to 96% and their geographic ranges have contracted by 23% to 87%.3The loss or fragmentation of wildlife habitat due to human incursion, invasive or non-native species, changes in climate, lower genetic diversity, disease,  herbicides, pesticides, parasitism and predation pose challenges to the survival of many species. In the case of the monarch butterfly, deforestation in Mexico has reduced overwintering sites. In the United States, agricultural practices and expansion have reduced monarch breeding sites through the  destruction of milkweed (host plant to monarch larvae). Added to these threats are the extreme weather conditions occurring in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

We can aid pollinators and other wildlife by creating natural, sustainable and environmentally-friendly habitats on our properties. This means using primarily native plants (and removing invasive species), which are suited to local conditions and are naturally more pest and disease resistant. Native plants usually will require less watering and maintenance and little to no use of pesticides that can harm water quality and wildlife. Also, the more diverse a habitat’s vegetation in terms of species, shape, size (with horizontal and vertical layers) and seasonal interest, the more diverse the wildlife it will entice.

The following resources will aid you in attracting desirable wildlife species to your property; identifying wildlife when they come; and sharing your space without wildlife conflict.

How to Create Wildlife-Friendly Habitats

  • Creating Inviting Habitats examines the habitat requirements for birds, hummingbirds and butterflies common to Virginia, and gives an overview of planning your garden space to accommodate them. Consult the MGNV Tried-and-True Plant fact sheets to help choose the right natives plants for your particular space. Many of these plants are on display at the MGNV demonstration gardens.
  • Audubon At Home Wildlife Sanctuary Program provides a range of practical ways that you can use to create more natural habitats around your home and more eco-friendly landscapes for birds, bees, and other beneficial wildlife. [Sponsored by the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia]
  • Garden for Wildlife Program shows you the benefits of creating gardens that attract beautiful wildlife and help restore habitat in commercial and residential areas. [Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation]
  • Monarch Waystations are places that you can create and maintain in your gardens to provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. [Sponsored by Monarch Watch]

How to Identify Wildlife and Successfully Share Your Space

  • All About Birds. Identify feathered friends and foes with this comprehensive guide to North American birds and bird watching from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • BugGuide. Learn more about insects, spiders and their kin from a knowledge base created by a community of naturalists from thousands of images collected from the United States and Canada.
  • Butterflies and Moths of North America. Identify species from photographs and observations submitted by citizen scientists and quality-controlled by lepidopterists.
  • Capital Naturalist Blog – Alonso Abugattas A reveals some of the wonders of the natural world found right around the Washington, DC Metropolitan area using his own photography and his life-long experiences.
  • Wildlife of Arlington: A NaturalHeritage Resource Inventory Technical Report. Learn more about the wildlife commonly and uncommonly found in Arlington with this 2011 inventory compiled by the Arlington Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.

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  1. Colony Loss 2016-2017: Preliminary Results. (2017, August 28). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2016-2017-preliminary-results/
  2. Centre, U. W. (2017, April 28). State of conservation report “Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve Report” by the State Party / Rapport de l’Etat partie sur l’état de … Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/139930
  3. Cameron, S. A., Lozier, J. D., Strange, J. P., Koch, J. B., Cordes, N., Solter, L. F., & Griswold, T. L. (2011, January 11). Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. Retrieved March 02, 2018, from http://www.pnas.org/content/108/2/662