Butterfly Pavilion unveiled its pollinator-focused exhibit Pollinator Place during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by First Gentleman of Colorado Marlon Reis and U.S. Representative Brittany Pettersen.
This buzzworthy event also marked the beginning of Butterfly Pavilion's two-month-long Pollinator Palooza celebration and the global launch of its Pollinator Awareness through Conservation and Education (PACE) initiative.
The Pollinator Place exhibit features a collection of pollinators from around the globe, including an array of vibrantly colored beetles, hundreds of ants and a greenhouse teeming with bumble bees. These tiny creatures help sustain our ecosystems and natural resources by aiding in plant reproduction.
Butterfly Pavilion's PACE initiative, along with the Pollinator Place exhibit and Pollinator Palooza events, seeks to provide a unique and engaging opportunity for individuals to learn about pollinators and become involved in conservation efforts.
The idea behind PACE has been in development for years and planning for the event began back in October of last year, focusing not only on the exhibit and events, but also on providing educational resources for the public. Amy Yarger, director of Horticulture, and Dr. Richard Reading, vice president of Science and Conservation, at Butterfly Pavilion are key figures behind PACE and the Pollinator Place.
Yarger highlighted the importance of pollinators in supporting agriculture and ecosystems, and how their absence would significantly impact our daily lives. She implored the need for everyone to be part of the solution by planting gardens, participating in community science, taking classes and simply informing others about the significance of pollinators.
"Through habitat gardening and education, we hope to create a closer connection to nature and a greater understanding of the need for biodiversity locally and globally," Yarger said.
Yarger, who has been with Butterfly Pavilion for 23 years, recalls that people used to ask her how to plant a butterfly garden while keeping bees out, and now public awareness has shifted towards concern for bees and other pollinators. There are 950 different kinds of bees in Colorado alone, all of which play a role in pollinating wildflowers, shrubs and other native plants.
Reading emphasized the dramatic decline in pollinator populations and insects in general, with a 45 percent drop over the past few decades. He explained that we are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis — the sixth great extinction, this time caused by humans. He went on to state that pollinators play a crucial role in our lives, with one in every three bites of food reliant on their work.
"Without pollinators, life would be much less attractive to all of us, so we really thought we needed to engage the public in doing conservation work for pollinators, through PACE," Reading said. "We work with people and organizations across the globe, from places like Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Tanzania and more, to help pollinators and mitigate conflicts."
Butterfly Pavilion recently collaborated with colleagues to initiate environmental and ecological services to restore pollinator habitats in places like old abandoned well sites or in new developments, replacing traditional landscaping with pollinator-friendly alternatives.
Brittany Pettersen, the U.S. Representative from Colorado's 7th congressional district, attended the event and expressed her support for the Butterfly Pavilion's conservation efforts.
“I also brought my kid here, he was a little antsy … This is one of his favorite places to come play and learn,” Petterson said. “My message to families in the community is to become a member, support the work of the Butterfly Pavilion, and also help raise kids that are aware of the problems that we're facing here across the globe and what we can do together to make an impact.”
First Gentleman of Colorado Marlon Reis also attended the event, expressing his passion for caring for the natural world and advocating for pollinator conservation. Reis discussed the importance of building a decentralized network of concerned corporations, community members and experts focused on translating scientific findings into real-world actions for the benefit of pollinators and invertebrates.
"The beauty of this is that we can all contribute. We can all do something. It doesn't require being an elected official, or being in government, or being part of a business. We can all do something that touches all of our lives," Reis said. "Creating pollinator-friendly places and including pollinators in our urban planning is so important. It's going to take every single one of us, community members around the world, to turn this tide."