Humans are reducing numbers of pollinators like bees and butterflies by destroying habitats, spraying pesticides and emitting pollution. Now, a University of Kansas researcher and a world-famous crop artist are behind a nationwide campaign to publicize the peril faced by species that transfer pollen between flowers.
"This is serious," said Orley "Chip" Taylor, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU. "We're losing six thousand acres of habitat a day to development, 365 days a year. One out of every three bites you eat is traceable to pollinators' activity. But if you start losing pollinators, you start losing plants."
Taylor works with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). That group has successfully worked with the United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Senate to designate June 24 through June 30, 2007, as "National Pollinator Week." The NAPPC also has convinced the United States Postal Service to issue a block of four "Pollination" stamps this summer depicting a Morrison's bumble bee, a calliope hummingbird, a lesser long-nosed bat and a Southern dogface butterfly.
To call more attention to pollinators at risk, Taylor has enlisted help from noted Kansas-based artist Stan Herd. Herd executes masterful large-scale earthworks around the world, including rock mosaics, natural-material sculptures and crop art.
"I sent Stan Herd an e-mail and said, 'Hey, we've got a project here I'd like to have you think about'," said Taylor. "Stan immediately said 'yes.' He's very much aware of ecological issues and he wants to become involved."
Herd will take an image from one "Pollinator" stamp - the Southern dogface butterfly - and create a vast facsimile at Pendleton's Country Market, a family farm between Kansas City and Lawrence. The image will be best viewed aerially from a nearby silo or an aircraft. Herd's immense stamp reproduction is to incorporate plants that conservationists urge for use in backyard butterfly gardens.
"I wanted to add my artistic statement to the equation," said Herd. "I'm a fan of the flora and fauna and know that with migratory critters like butterflies there are increasing problems because of loss of habitat. My work is about my ideals. It also catches young people's attention and we'll bring school kids out to get involved in this piece."
Taylor and NAPPC are grateful for the awareness Herd's work could bring to the drop in pollinator populations.
"We can use this larger image to attract the attention of the public to this cause," said Laurie Adams, who manages NAPPC. "Beautiful green lawns are wonderful but we need to do more with our cities, farms and the habitats that we control to provide for wildlife. Creating pollinator gardens or Monarch butterfly waystations through MonarchWatch are easy to do. And they are important."