Pollinator Garden at Missouri State Fair presented by Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Department of Transportation

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Pollinator Garden at Missouri State Fair presented by Saint Louis Zoo and Missouri Department of Transportation

Aug 9, 2012

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:Stacy Armstrong, MoDOT, 573-694-0399
Saint Louis Zoo 314/646-4633



Large, Colorful Signs in Garden Offer Bee ID Guide, Show Why We Need Pollinators

[Editor’s Note: Media are invited to check out the new pollinator garden and the signs on Aug. 9 at the State Fair in the Missouri Department of Transportation Highway Gardens.]

The Missouri State Fair is now home to a demonstration garden showing visitors a range of plants that attract butterflies and bees, thanks to collaboration between the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

The Zoo covered the cost of the plants that range from swamp milkweed to sky blue asters and sneezeweed to sunflowers and goldenrod. Installed by MoDOT, all the plants in the garden are native to Missouri and came from Missouri suppliers.

The 60-foot by 25-foot garden officially opens Thursday, Aug. 9, on MoDOT grounds on the south side of the fair grounds. This new garden showcases 17 species of plants that attract pollinators and includes two, four-foot-signs offering information on, and photos of, some of the 425 species of bees known in Missouri and explaining why pollinators are important.

Designed by a Zoo artist, these signs tell fairgoers that 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 all human food crops.

“Creating a garden like this at the state fair will show Missourians from across the state the critical importance of pollinators and the kinds of plants that attract pollinators and stress the need to provide environments where pollinators can thrive,” said Ed Spevak, curator of invertebrates at the Saint Louis Zoo. “The garden also demonstrates our commitment in working with MoDOT and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to develop future pollinator roadsides along Missouri’s roads. This can help reduce MoDOT’s budget by reducing mowing costs along roadsides. Also, by establishing these pollinator roadside habitats we can increase pollination on nearby crops, improving yields and profits.”

Aug. 9, Spevak will join state officials in kicking off Missouri Bee Week. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will be on hand to celebrate Bee Week, sponsored by AgriMissouri™, a Missouri Department of Agriculture-sponsored program.

AgriMissouri in May launched the “Great Missouri Buzz Off” to encourage people to visit www.AgriMissouri.com to learn more about bees and beekeeping. Department of Agriculture partners in this initiative include the Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Missouri State Beekeepers Association.

Spevak added that with 20,000 species of bees in the world, bees 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. “Many of the more than 4,000 native bees in North America are far better pollinators than honey bees for crops like alfalfa, clover, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and squashes.”

The Saint Louis Zoo’s website (www.stlzoo.org/pollinators) now offers directions on how to build the bee nesting boxes, in addition to tips on how to plant pollinator gardens and identification guides for Missouri and Illinois bees.

Center for Native Pollinator Conservation

Spevak is also director of the Zoo’s newly created WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, which is working with community garden groups to educate individuals about native bees and develop best bee practices to ensure optimal fruit and vegetable production.

In 2011, with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, The University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the Zoo helped organize a Species Conservation Strategy (SSC) Workshop for North American Bumble Bees. It attracted experts from North America, Europe and Japan, who are developing a comprehensive conservation and research action plan for North American bumble bees.

Internationally, the Zoo’s new pollinator center helped establish and organize the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Bumblebee Specialist Group. This group is organizing a worldwide network of bumble bee researchers who will examine all 250 species of bumble bees to establish their conservation status.

“This examination will help us focus appropriate conservation and research efforts on the bumble bee species of greatest concern,” said Spevak. “All of these efforts and our surveys of overall diversity and species abundance have helped us identify possible concerns. These initiatives are critical, because pollinator species are important to human health and well-being. They are declining and need our help.”

About the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute: Created in 2004 to bring together conservation initiatives under a single organization, the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for wildlife and for people around the world. The Institute and its 12 centers take a holistic approach to troubled ecosystems by addressing three key ingredients in conservation success: wildlife management and recovery, conservation science, and support of the human populations that coexist with wildlife. For more information, visit www.stlzoo.org/pollinators.

About the Saint Louis Zoo: Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year.

For more information, visit www.stlzoo.org, www.facebook.com/stlzoo, and www.twitter.com/stlzoo.

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