Protecting Wisconsin’s Pollinators: Wisconsin’s Green Fire Supports New Pollinator Protection Package

WI Green Fire, July 6, 2021

Monarch caterpillar on butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa
Credit: Kerry Beheler

In honor and recognition of Pollinator Week, Wisconsin Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) and Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) introduced the Pollinator Protection Package to preserve and protect our irreplaceable and vitally important pollinators. Wisconsin’s Green Fire enthusiastically supports these bills and legislative resolution.  

Most people think only about bees as pollinators, but birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and wasps are important pollinators. Many pollinator populations are imperiled and have been declining in recent years. A variety of factors contribute to this decline including habitat loss, pollution, misuse of pesticides, disease, and changes in climate patterns.  

54 of our 72 counties are within the breeding area prioritized for monarch habitat, we are a stronghold for the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee and Karner blue butterfly, and home to populations of 18 other at-risk pollinator species. Pollinators account for over $55 million in crop production in Wisconsin alone, and the agricultural economic and human food supply systems we depend on would be jeopardized without a thriving pollinator population. The Pollinator Protection Package works to reverse Wisconsin declines in pollinators.   

Pale purple coneflower and native coreopsis

Front yard native pollinator habitat. Photo: Kerry Beheler

The joint legislative resolution proposed by Rep Snodgrass and Senator Agard acknowledges and promotes the importance of creating and maintaining pollinator habitat. Habitat creation includes intentional practices such as choosing native plants that host pollinator larval stages and provide nectar and pollen, avoiding cutting back perennials at the end of the growing season, and leaving leaf litter for insect egg laying and seasonal hibernation.  

The package focuses on two primary protections for pollinators: allowing local municipalities to regulate pesticides to protect pollinators and their habitats and prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid insecticides by the WDNR on their state-owned lands. This would require plants that were treated with “neonics” to have labeling that discloses this use. Neonics are absorbed into plant tissue and can be transferred to the pollen and nectar, where they are harmful to pollinators. Studies have shown that neonics can cause a high mortality rate in honeybees, compromising their ability to navigate back to the hive and reduce the growth rate and production of queen bees. Wisconsin would join California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Vermont in protecting pollinators through legislation from the harms of neonic insecticides.  

Wisconsin’s Green Fire joins a number of other organizations that are concerned about and actively helping our pollinators. The WDNR, the Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin, and the Driftless Area Land Conservancy have teamed up to improve nearly 2,000 acres of pollinator habitat on public and private lands in southwestern Wisconsin. Federally endangered rusty patched bumble bees, monarch butterflies, regal fritillary butterflies and other at-risk pollinators will benefit from the work. 

Here are some great resources for reading more about pollinators and how to best protect them:

Pollinator Partnership 

Xerces Society  

Center for Biological Diversity  

Natural Resources Foundation’s Wisconsin Pollinator Protection Fun 

Non-toxic Communities  

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund