DNR News: A Pollinator Week extravaganza!

Share or view as webpage  |  Update preferences

News Digest - Week of June 21, 2021

bee and butterfly on coneflower

It's Pollinator Week! Check out the resources below and learn how to get involved.

As our state works to re-open to the public, some of this week's stories may reflect how the Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customer needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to discover and enjoy Michigan's natural and heritage resources!

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and others, are available in this folder. The photo of the mining bee used in the third story courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Blossoms at Belle Isle Park


Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Ashish Phansalkar at Belle Isle Park in Wayne County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

Plant trees for bees this pollinator week

catalpa blossoms

Want to give bees and butterflies a boost in honor of Pollinator Week, June 21-27? Adding native plants to your landscaping will help – but if you want to go big, why not plant a whole flowering tree? 

Pollinator species include more than just honeybees – native bees, butterflies and moths, and some kinds of birds, bats, flies and wasps also provide the essential service of transferring the pollen that fertilizes plants and flowers.  

We’re losing pollinators for a variety of reasons, including pests and diseases, habitat loss and exposure to chemicals. This is concerning because without pollinators, we can’t have healthy forests, thriving food crops or vibrant landscapes.

Providing pollinators with the nectar, pollen and habitat they need can help them survive. Pick the right trees for your landscape and watch them buzz, flap and flit to your yard. 

Need a tall tree? Plant a stately basswood, whose starry, cream-colored flowers and heart-shaped leaves are adored by butterflies, bees and moths. 

How about a low-maintenance tree? The hardy black tupelo, a honeybee favorite with scarlet autumn leaves, grows slowly and tolerates sun or partial shade. 

Classic eastern redbuds and crabapples provide lots of pink flowers that pollinators and people alike will admire. The unusual tulip tree and northern catalpa, both sporting unique looks for landscaping, are beautiful nectar sources that attract hummingbirds.

Visit our webpage on fantastic flowering trees for more info.

In addition to planting trees and flowering plants to feed pollinators, you can support them by providing fresh, shallow water sources, applying fewer herbicides and pesticides, and using fallen leaves as mulch instead of burning them. 

Learn more about helping pollinators from the Michigan Pollinator Initiative, and get tree-planting tips from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Questions? Contact Rachel Coale, DNR communications representative, at 517-930-1283.

Help the monarch with milkweed, monitoring and more

monarch butterfly on milkweed

One of the most well-known and beloved butterfly species in North America, eastern monarch butterflies have become a less common sight in recent decades.

The butterfly population has been declining over the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss in their summer range – including Michigan – and in Mexico, where they spend the winter.

Monarchs rely on grassland habitats that provide milkweed plants where monarchs lay their eggs, and nectar-producing flowering plants that provide food for the adult butterflies.

“Grasslands provide a diverse mix of plant species that pollinators, like the monarch, need – with both early- and late-blooming plants as well as plants that flower mid-summer,” said Dan Kennedy, endangered species specialist with the DNR. "Grasslands also support milkweeds, which are especially important for the monarch’s reproductive cycle – they are the only species of plants that monarch caterpillars eat."

While monarch butterflies pollinate many flowering plants, they need milkweed plants to survive. Milkweeds are the host plants for monarch butterfly caterpillars, which feed on the plants as they grow.

invasive swallowwort plant

Invasive black (left) and pale swallowwort vines, members of the milkweed family imported from Europe, can have a devastating effect on monarch reproduction. The butterflies seem to recognize these invasive vines as suitable hosts, but hatched caterpillars can’t successfully feed on swallowworts, so the caterpillars die.

Pale swallowwort has been detected across southern Michigan, while black swallowwort has been found across Lower Michigan and at one location in the Upper Peninsula. Swallowworts are perennial vines that have opposite, oval leaves with pointed tips. Small, star-shaped flowers grow in clusters, creating narrow, milkweed-like seed pods. Make sure to report any observations of this invasive species and don’t plant it by mistake.

As you work in your backyard, garden or community garden this year, consider these tips to make it beneficial for pollinators. You can even become a certified monarch waystation.

If you spot monarchs or their larva (caterpillars) this summer, be sure to report sightings to help inform conservation decisions here in Michigan! You can report monarch sightings and track their journey at Journey North

Due to the declining population, monarch butterflies are listed as a candidate species under the federal Endangered Species Act and their population status is under review annually. Learn more at FWS.gov/SaveTheMonarch.

Information on identifying, reporting and managing invasive swallowworts, including a best control practices guide, is available at Michigan.gov/Invasives.

Find out more about ways you can help monarchs by visiting Michigan.gov/Monarchs or contacting the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Questions? Contact Dan Kennedy at 517-896-2602.

Helping students understand the importance of pollinators

Mining bee on yellow flower

“Save the bees” has become the mantra behind many pollinator restoration efforts, but these programs can be viewed with unease by those who feel anxious when they hear a buzzing bee nearby. A project by the Gladwin DNR field office, Pheasants Forever and Huron Pines AmeriCorps is working to familiarize students with how gentle and important pollinators are, through a program designed to benefit area pollinators and engage the community.

Part of the Pollinator Project program is a Pollinator Project virtual kit, which helps formal and informal educators enhance in-person or virtual learning. The kit includes pollinator presentations for elementary and secondary students, videos and guides that share pollinator-themed activities, resources, plants, bee houses and how to support pollinators at home.

“We are designing a boxed, take-home wildflower garden kit for nearly 50 4-H youth to explore pollinators,” said Alex Schunk, Clare County 4-H coordinator, who is planning to use the kit for a June activity. “They'll be making ‘pollinator seed balls’ with wildflower seeds donated by the Clare Conservation District.”

In past years, students have participated in the creation of new pollinator habitats, supported by the Gladwin chapter of Pheasants Forever. The program extends to both classroom and community to demonstrate how pollinators are unique and important and explains the challenges they face. Gladwin’s Pollinator Project helps connect the community to the wild world around them and encourages people of all ages to get involved.

Questions? Contact Kate King at KingK25@Michigan.gov.

Michigan’s endangered pollinators: how you can help

karner blue

When we say “pollinator,” the image of a honeybee probably pops into your head. But many other species are essential pollinators, too. Plus, the honeybee is not a native bee! They were brought to America by European colonists in the 17th century. There are more than 450 species of native wild bee in Michigan and around 4,000 in the U.S. – so, while honeybees may be the face of the “save the bees” movement and our first idea of a “pollinator,” they’re not the only ones in trouble.

The rusty patched bumblebee, the first wild bee to be listed, in 2017, as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is of particular concern for conservationists. Bumblebees are a keystone species in most ecosystems, meaning that they are necessary for native wildflower reproduction, creating seeds and fruits that feed wildlife and pollinating many different crops. Because of their ability to “buzz pollinate,” these bees are very effective pollinators. They rely on hydrangea, locust trees, goldenrod, blueberry bushes, spotted Joe-pye weed and bee balm for food and shelter.

The yellow-banded bumble bee is a USFWS species of concern, and, while not listed as endangered, is relatively rare. They rely on goldenrod, which can be found in abundance in Michigan. Sometimes considered a weed, this plant provides much-needed nutrients to many different species. Instead of mowing over goldenrods or cutting them back, let them grow.

Epeoloides pilosulus, a kind of cuckoo bee – so named for laying their eggs in other species’ nest to offload rearing their young – which was once found throughout the northern and eastern U.S. and southern Canada, was believed extinct until a specimen was found in Nova Scotia in 2002. Michigan State University researchers found a single specimen in 2018, after a 74-year absence in the state. This species relies entirely on fringed loosestrife – a sprawling perennial with yellow flowers that is not related to the invasive purple loosestrife.

The Poweshiek skipperling and Karner blue butterfly are two endangered butterflies found in Michigan. The skipperling, a small orange, brown and cream butterfly, has declined rapidly in the past 50 years due to habitat loss. Once common on native prairies of the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, this species is thought to now be concentrated in only six populations on earth, two of which are in Michigan. It relies on the grass species prairie dropseed and mat muhly to lay its eggs and black-eyed Susan flowers for food.

The Karner blue butterfly is entirely dependent on the wild lupine. Because of habitat loss, it now only is found in remnant oak savannas. The thumbnail-sized butterfly lays its eggs on or near lupine plants, and its caterpillars feed only on lupine leaves and flowers. This butterfly benefits from DNR prescribed burns, which help wild lupine thrive.

All these rare pollinators would greatly benefit by passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

There are many other endangered and rare pollinators in Michigan. All are important for our local ecosystems, and their decline has troubling consequences. Losing these species also means losing natural biodiversity and disrupting local environments. Many of the factors driving their decline are human-caused, like intensive farming, climate change, pesticide use and habitat loss.

So, how can you help these important, endangered or rare species? Get involved. Community science is one of the best ways to help revitalize these populations.

Questions? Contact Dan Kennedy at 517-896-2602.


Want to learn more about the wild world around you? Check out our Nature at Home webpage. With videos, virtual field trips, guides and more, it's a great learning opportunity for all ages.


More and more women are learning the joys of outdoor recreation. With our newest Beyond Becoming an Outdoors-Woman programs this summer, you can learn important outdoor skills – and have fun!


Practice community science this summer and be our Eyes in the Field. Report your fish and wildlife observations and help give our biologists a clearer snapshot the many species at home here.