Bag Limits, Honey Bees and 3rd Grade Science
As a 3rd grader in Ms. Baumgartner’s science class, I first learned about the interconnected “web of life” during a momentary break from rolling spitballs. I’m glad I paid attention during that lesson, because as a bird hunter today, I better understand the link between habitat and autumn bag limits. However, I think even Ms. Baumgartner would be fascinated by the evolving conservation connection between upland game birds and pollinating insects.
The link between pollinators, flowers and game birds is actually pretty easy to explain. You see, pheasants and quail share a common need for habitat featuring a diverse forb (flowering plant) component with pollinating insects like honey bees, butterflies, beetles, and bats. Following a pheasant or quail nest’s hatch, young chicks survive almost exclusively on a diet of insects. These insects critical to a gamebird’s life cycle are also dependent upon a diverse mix of forbs. Likewise, these flowering plants create fantastic brood cover allowing chicks to move through habitat at ground level, while having protection from avian predators in the sky.
In the last few years, bee populations have been plummeting due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder in which honey bees abruptly “disappear” from their hives never to return. There is no clearly known cause for the syndrome, but insecticides and loss of pollinator habitat are both suspected of playing large roles. According to the National Research Council, the annual value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is between $14 and $19 billion. That’s a lot of cash to go missing from the food chain.
Consequently, the new hot button term at Pheasants Forever these days is “pollinator habitat.” The marriage between pheasants and pollinators becomes even more formal on Monday, March 14th when Pheasants Forever’s favorite habitat tool, the Conservation Reserve Program, begins taking offers for a new general signup. In fact, landowners will significantly improve their opportunity to win a CRP contract by including a pollinator habitat component.
So as it turns out, Pheasants Forever is in the pollinator habitat business. That’d make Ms. Baumgartner proud.
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.
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