The Butterfly Pavilion kicked off Pollinator Palooza with the opening of a new exhibit on May 2, with help from Congresswoman Brittany Pettersen and Marlon Reis, Colorado's first gentlemen.
“When I think about the challenges that we're facing, having a three-year-old son and what his future looks like, it can be incredibly overwhelming. But it's people like all of you who inspire me to believe that we're going to rise to the occasion and meet this moment,” said Pettersen.
For the next two months, the Pavilion will be celebrating pollinators. Their new exhibit, Pollinator Place, will be their largest pollinator-focused exhibit ever, showcasing beetles, ants and bumblebees.
It comes at a time when pollinators and insects are facing continually increasing threats from climate change. Dr. Richard Reading, the Butterfly Pavilion's vice president of science and conservation sounded the alarm.
“We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction on planet Earth, and this one is different than the rest in that it's caused by one of nature's own: people. And unfortunately, insects and invertebrates are not spared by this loss,” he said.
Reading said some are also calling this period of time the insect apocalypse, pointing to some professionals that believe the planet lost 45% of pollinators in the last few centuries.
He emphasized the importance of pollinators to the environment and to humans. Creating soil, purifying water and pollinating food are among some of their ecosystem services, and said they create one out of every three bites of food people take.
He paraphrased a quote from a biologist.
“If people disappeared, the planet would quickly return to a state of normalcy, but if the invertebrates disappeared, if insects were to disappear, life, as we know it on this planet, would disappear altogether,” he said.
But he also said he’s hopeful, as efforts by communities and the Butterfly Pavilion are aiming to help, such as creating pollinator districts within cities and collecting data on butterfly monitoring.
Amy Yarger, Director of Horticulture, said pollinator districts have seen increases in pollinators, and even small actions can make a difference. Pollinator Palooza hopes to get more people involved.
“Some of the things that all of us can do, whether it's planting a garden(or) putting out flower pots, can make an impact,” she said.
In an interview, Reis, Gov. Jared Polis' husband, urged residents to talk to their city council members and county commissioners about planting native plants in their jurisdiction.
“There's a tendency to plant non-native like Kentucky Bluegrass, which is beautiful, it's soft and looks pretty, but it's not great for native wildlife,” he said.
Reis touted a bill he’s working on that’s moving its way through the legislature, which will limit the use of a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids. He said they’re toxic to pollinators.
Reis also said the legislature passed a bill for a pollinator license plate that generates funds toward pollinator conservation.
How community members can make their own impact and learn more about pollinators can be learned throughout the celebration at the Butterfly Pavilion.