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Protecting Pollinators: TN Aquarium & TDOT Promote Sustainability Future

With their orange and black patterning, gossamer wings, and 3,000-mile migrations, few insects are as beloved as the Monarch Butterfly. Imagine their tragic disappearance.

In 2022, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared the Monarch an endangered species, citing an 80% population decline since the 1980s.

Anxiety also arose in the mid-2000s with colony collapse disorder, endangering European Honey Bees. Their activity affects one in three bites of food we eat.

Pollinators are vital to plants and humans, celebrated during Pollinator Week, recognizing the contributions of butterflies, bees, moths, bats, and others.

To raise awareness and prevent declines, the Tennessee Aquarium partnered with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for Pollinator Pathway, a self-guided experience.

Visitors explore the Aquarium campus, encounter signs describing pollinators’ behaviors, unexpected pollinators and ways to create a pollinator-friendly home. They learn about the Aquarium’s involvement in the Monarch SAFE program.

The Aquarium joins over 100 AZA-certified institutions in the program. Chattanooga’s location along the Monarchs’ migration path makes it even more meaningful to help them at home.

Getting the word out that Monarchs need our help is crucial. Making pollination areas and planting flowers at home can support Monarchs.

During Pollinator Week at the Aquarium, organizations like McKee Foods and TDOT offer free samples, Pollinator Bingo Cards, and information about Project Milkweed.

Visitors to Chattanooga may have already encountered pollinator-friendly messaging and planted areas at Tennessee welcome centers due to the state’s Pollinator Habitat Program.

TDOT entered a two-year partnership with the Aquarium to amplify pro-pollinator messaging, starting with the Pollinator Pathway. Polli, the department’s spokes-bee, appears on signage and provides insights.

At the Aquarium, visitors learn about pollinators’ role worldwide, from native plants to the Red-Ruffed Lemur in Lemur Forest. The Butterfly Garden is a favorite spot.

Interesting Facts:

  • The U.S. has over 4,000 bee species
  • The Honey Bee is Tennessee’s state agricultural insect
  • Pollinators contribute $18 billion to the U.S. economy
  • Monarchs can fly up to 3,000 miles during migration
  • Monarchs are the only butterflies with a two-way migration like birds
  • Various animals, including lemurs, play a crucial role in pollination
  • The Black-and-white-ruffed Lemur is the world’s largest pollinator
  • The smallest bee, Perdita minima, measures just 2 millimeters
  • Carpenter Bees are also known as “Right Angle Bees” due to their tunneling behavior

The Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater will show Flight of the Butterflies 3D during Pollinator Week.

For more information, visit tnpollinators.org and tnaqua.org/pollinators/.

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