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Pollinators get by with a little help from their friends


BEE CAMPUS USA: Although Monarch butterflies create a spectacular presence on campus during their annual migration, ACU’s welcoming habitat attracts a number of other varieties of winged creatures throughout the year. Enjoy these stunning images captured by Rendi Hahn.

It’s the wonderful time of year when Monarch butterflies make their long multi-generational journey from Canada to wintering locations in central Mexico and southern California – and the ACU campus is on the route.
Their beauty is incredible and the scope of their journey is amazing. But Monarchs, along with other pollinators, also serve a practical purpose.
Pollinators – including butterflies, bees, bats and hummingbirds – move pollen from the male structures of flowers to the female structure of the same plant species to ensure plants will produce fruit and seeds.
They’re also critical to our food supply: According to the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State, animal-mediated pollination is necessary for approximately 75 percent of our food crops, and 80-95 percent of plant species in native habitats (such as nut and fruit trees) require assistance from pollinators to bear fruit. Pollinators rely on friendly habitats to sustain migration patterns and help compensate for the loss of native habitats due to development, pesticides, climate changes and even natural events such as Hurricane Harvey.
As part of ACU’s commitment to sustainability, the landscape and grounds management team is working to provide welcoming habitat for both migrating pollinators and other species that stay closer to home. That requires nectar plants, food sources for larvae, and other habitat for nesting and egg laying.
The next time you enjoy the butterflies on campus, think of the part they play in the plant ecosystem and imagine ways you can provide a little help on their way home.
ACU has two on-campus pollinator gardens: near the south end of the Brown Library and to the east of the Hunter Welcome Center. The Parker Hill Nature Trail, an off-campus garden near the ACU warehouse east of Judge Ely Boulevard, also includes bee boxes and wildflowers. The favorite nectar plant for butterflies in ACU’s gardens is Gregg’s blue mistflower. Monarch butterflies also require milkweed to lay their eggs as this is the only food source their larvae will eat.
We’re one of only 31 universities in the U.S. designated as a Bee Campus USA. To receive this designation, ACU submitted a campus habitat plan that includes plants such as flame acanthus‘Moonlight’ salvia greggii‘Mercury Rising’ coreopsis‘Henry Duelberg’ salvia‘Cheyenne Spirit’ coneflowerpurple coneflower‘May Night’ salviafour nerve daisy (Angelita daisy), fall aster and vitex trees. ACU also has committed to participate in events that raise awareness of the key role pollinators play to encourage members of the community to add pollinator-friendly features to their own landscaping plans.
These efforts are working. Many bees are present on campus, and a wide variety of butterflies has been spotted, including Monarch, queen, viceroy, black swallowtail, great swallowtail, pipevine swallowtail, Texan crescent, dogface, buckeye, American painted lady, red admiral, variegated fritillary, gulf fritillary, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, giant sulphur, large white, American snout, and several varieties of skippers. Although the migration through Abilene so far this fall has not been strong, the milkweeds had many Monarch larvae from the early waves of butterflies.
So the next time you enjoy the butterflies on campus, think of the part they play in the plant ecosystem and imagine ways you can provide a little help on their way home.
Learn more
Several excellent education and awareness sites provide information about migration and resources to help individuals establish their own pollinator gardens: