Follows the Nectar Trail?
leave on a long car trip, you like to be sure there will be food along
the way. Will restaurants will be open when you' re hungry?
say that migratory species need to count on the same thing. Scientists
have long thought that some of the migratory species we study in Journey
North — such as monarch butterflies, rufous hummingbirds, and
lesser long-nosed bats — time their migration to match the flowering
and fruiting of various food plants. In other words, they follow "flower
highways" that serve as nectar trails to fuel their flights. In
the process of moving from one plant to another, these flying critters
are not only feeding; they are also pollinating.
Species, Three Pathways
This map shows three of the migratory pollinator species that
you can meet in Journey North reports. Their migratory "highways" are
lined with flowering plants that bloom in a sequence each spring. The blossoms
provide crucial refueling stopovers during the winged pollinators' long
credit M. Hosier
long-nosed bats log
as many as 3,200 miles on their round-trip journey each year. Each
spring pregnant bats of this endangered species fly up to 100 miles
a night, following the wave of cactus blooms from south-central
Mexico to Arizona, New Mexico, and Baja California Mexico. They
head back south after bearing their young, fueled along the way
by flowering agave plants.
each fall to southern Mexico, feeding off flowering plants on their
way. In the spring they again follow the nectar trail as they return
to northern California, Oregon, Washington and the Rocky Mountains
up through British Columbia and well into southern Alaska.
of monarch butterflies from
all over North America fly south every year in late summer and early
fall to California, Florida, and a mountainous area in central Mexico.
They fuel their migration on the sugars (carbohydrates) found in
the nectar of flowering plants.
Pollinators are Important to YOU!
It's not just the migratory species that benefit from
the nectar trails. We ALL do! Many of our favorite fruits would never
grow without help from their pollinators. Honeybees, other wild bee
species, and the other migratory animals that transfer pollen between
flowers, contribute more than $10 billion a year to fruit and seed
production on North American farms. These native pollinators also pollinate
rare and endangered plant species.
States and Mexico have signed International conservation treaties to
protect the migratory pollinators. But the agreements have not yet
kept migratory pollinator populations from declining. For example,
the number of rufous hummingbirds has been falling in the Intermountain
West at a rate of 5 percent a year.
Migratory Pollinators Program. Run by the Arizona-Sonora
Desert Museum, this program aims to monitor the "nectar
corridor" between Mexico and the southwestern United States.
Volunteers help researchers monitor and protect migratory stopovers
for bats, doves, hummingbirds, and monarchs at 12 sites and 5 states,
and to report on the arrival and departure times of these pollinators
at dozens of other sites. The information is mapped and compared
against changing land-use trends to see where the migrants might
be most vulnerable and in need of further protection. Then communities
become involved. Volunteers help monitor the migrants and also take
care of their habitat.
the Web site of Bat
Conservation International to learn how to help bats. Bats have
a tough time because many people wrongly fear them. We all need to
spread the word about the importance of bats and the ways they help
us. We need to help raise the level of respect and caring for bats.
This! Journaling Questions
- Why is
it important to protect migratory pollinators and not take them for
granted? Has your attitude about bats, bees, or any of the other
pollinators changed as a result of learning more about them?
might be some of threats to these important species? (Think about
attitudes as well as the growing human population and how we meet
its growing needs.)