The State of Pollinators in Iowa

The State of Pollinators in Iowa

Special Note: This blog post is based on a presentation made by former PRI Watersheds and Wildlife Coordinator David Stein. Editing and Design by PRI PR & Marketing Coordinator Mike Kellner.

Pollinators in Iowa are disappearing at an alarming rate due to climate change, disappearing habitat, pesticide use, and disease.

Prior to European settlement, about 85% of Iowa was covered with prairies, grasslands, wetlands, and forests. Now, less than one-tenth of a percent of Iowa’s original prairies are left while the rest of its land has been plowed for cultivation, cleared for development, or otherwise altered creating a lack of habitat, food, and water for pollinators in our state. In a sense, Iowa’s once-lush landscape has become a virtual desert, where more often than not, there is no food or water for pollinators sometimes as far as the eye can see.

Pre-Settlement Pollinator Habitat in Iowa
Pre-Settlement Pollinator and Wildlife Habitat in Iowa
Former land cover can give us insight into how to best currently manage and restore pollinator and wildlife habitat
Post Settlement Pollinator Habitat in Iowa
Post Settlement Pollinator and Wildlife Habitat in Iowa
Wetlands, forests, and most significantly, prairies and grasslands have all seen reductions resulting in habitat loss.  
Just Some of the Historic Trends in Pollinator Decline in Iowa

  •  Skippers —47 Species
  • Hairstreaks and Blues — 25 Species
  • White, Yellow, Orange Butterflies — 11 Species
  • Brush-Footed Butterflies — 38 Species
  • Swallowtails — 6 Species
  • Metalmark Butterflies —1 Species

  • Skippers 27 Species — (43% loss)
  • Hairstreaks and Blues — 14 Species (44% loss)
  • White, Yellow, Orange Butterflies — 6 Species (45% loss)
  • Brush-Footed Butterflies — 25 Species (35% loss)
  • Swallowtails — 4 Species (33% loss)
  • Metalmark Butterflies —  0 Species (100% loss; not seen since 1930)
Some Species You Will Never See Again
Other Threatened and Endangered Butterflies
Acadian Hairstreak
Aphrodite Fritillary
Banded Hairstreak
Black Dash
Broad Winged Skipper
Byssus Skipper
Columbine Duskywing
Common Ringlet
Common Roadside Skipper
Compton Tortoiseshell
Crossline Skipper
Dakota Skipper
Dion Skipper
Dreamy Duskywing

Dusted Skipper
Edward’s Hairstreak
Eyed Brown
Gorgone Checkerspot
Gray Comma
Hayhurst’s Scallopwing
Henry’s Elfin
Hickory Hairstreak
Horace’s Duskywing
Juniper Hairstreak
Juvenal’s Duskywing
Leonard’s Skipper
Little Glassywing

Long Dash
Meadow Fritillary
Melissa Blue
Mottled Duskywing
Mulberry Wing
Northern Broken Dash
Northern Pearly Eye
Ottoe Skipper
Ozark Baltimore
Pawnee Skipper
Pepper & Salt Skipper
Pipevine Swallowtail
Poweshiek Skipperling


Purplish Copper
Reakirt’s Blue
Regal Fritillary
Silver Bordered Fritillary
Silvery Blue
Sleepy Duskywing
Southern Cloudywing
Striped Hairstreak
Swamp Metalmark
Swarthy Skipper
Two Spotted Skipper
White M Hairstreak
Wild Indigo Duskywing
Zabulon Skipper
Zebra Swallowtail
Threatened and Endangered Bumble Bees — They Are Still Here, Let’s Work Together to Protect Them While We Still Can!
Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

American Bumble Bee

American Bumble Bee

Plains Bumble Bee

Plains Bumble Bee

Yellow Bumble Bee

Yellow Bumble Bee

Steps We All Can Take to Reduce Pollinator Decline
• Learn from the past
• Plant a lot of flowers of different species
• Use native plants
• Reintroduce rare plants
• Don’t waste space on turf
• Remove invasive species
• Diversify agriculture
• Treat ecosystems as vital infrastructure
Native Plant Diversity
Diversified Agriculture
Visit with our Watersheds and Wildlife program to learn more about helping pollinators by planting the right native host plants for for food and nectar, using alternative lawn seed mixes, best practices for nesting and much more! 
Reflecting on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Project

Reflecting on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Project

This project that was funded through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is coming to a close early this December. It allowed us the means to engage with several local people about the need for wildlife and pollinator habitats in central Iowa. I’d like to take the time to reflect on all the great work that we’ve done through this grant. Here are the highlights of our accomplishments of over the last three years with a few numbers.

6 Field Days were held on the following topics: Hamilton County Wetlands, CRP/Pollinator Habitat, Saturated Buffers, Multi-Scale Habitat Restoration, Story County Wetlands, Orchard, and Prairie Pollination.

220 People attended field days between 2019 and 2021

CRP Pollinator Habitat Field Day

5 Webinars were held in 2021 on the following topics: Water Quality, Ethnobotany, Planting for Pollinators, Citizen Science Opportunities, and Habitat Financial Assistance.

119 People attended our webinars in 2021

Which Water Worry Where Webinar

6 Water Quality Snapshots were held each spring and autumn between 2019 and 2021.

113 Volunteers tested water quality during our snapshot events.

Which Water Worry Where Webinar

36 Landowners were provided with technical assistance for nutrient reduction, water quality, wildlife habitat, and erosion issues.

30 Species of native plants were offered through the Community Seed Bank Program started in 2019.

96 Landowners were provided with native seeds through the Community Native Seed Bank

179 Acres of pollinator habitat were restored or enhanced through the Community Native Seed Bank

Native Seed Bank

9 County Maps were developed to find the ideal placement for new habitat installation.

10 Years of water quality monitoring were planned through a collaborative group of Story County stakeholders.

Story County Water Monitoring and Interpretation Plan
Note From the Program Coordinator

Note From the Program Coordinator

Thank you all for joining us again on the newest addition of the Watersheds and Wildlife Newsletter. Let me go ahead and start by thanking everyone for making our most recent events a massive success! We had a lot of events in a row, and it made us so happy to see the massive amount of support shown to us. On August 28th we held our final field day for the year, and for the National Fish and Wildlife project. This field day was called Bumble Bees and Berries and was held at both the Berry Patch Farm and Jennett Heritage Area. We were lucky enough to partner with Story County Conservation, the Story SWCD, and Monarch Joint Venture. We had a total of 40 people stop by to learn all about pollinators, orchards, and prairies.

Bumble Bees and Berries Event Activity
Chad Pregracke Presentation

On September 30th, in collaboration with the City of Ames, we hosted a river cleanup lecture by Chad Pregracke at the Ames City Auditorium. His talk then inspired us, and 26 other environmental enthusiasts to get our hands dirty and our feet wet, and do a massive cleanup in Ioway Creek on the 2nd.

Our largest event by far, however, was the 2nd annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival, again held at Ames City Auditorium on October 1st. This was a night full of inspiring films, partnership building, and showing support for conservation. We hope you all enjoyed the event, and look forward to next year’s show!

Iowa PBS Wild and Scenic Film Fest Presentation

On October 23, we hosted this year’s second Water Quality Snapshot, where volunteers helped collect vital data that we can use to evaluate our waterways. Starting in November our annual Native Seed Bank will be re-opening. We hope that this year’s seed bank will be able to help restore more acres than 2019 and 2020 combined! On November 2nd, we alongside Story County Conservation will be hosting a webinar to update the public on the progress being made towards Story County water quality monitoring.

Like always, for more details about all of our upcoming events, please follow us on social media, and visit the events page on our website. Thank you again for joining us and enjoy this edition of the Watersheds and Wildlife Newsletter.

Visit here to read the entire newsletter.

Watersheds and Wildlife Summer 2021 Newsletter

Watersheds and Wildlife Summer 2021 Newsletter

Watersheds & Wildlife Summer 2021 Newsletter

Thank you all for joining us on the newest edition of the Watersheds and Wildlife Newsletter.  As usual, I’m here to give a general update on the work and status of our team’s work over the last few months. We have been hard at work in terms of public outreach, especially since everything is opening back up post-pandemic.  Click here to read the entire newsletter featuring the latest news from our Watersheds and Wildlife Program!

Note from the Watersheds and Wildlife Program Coordinator

Note from the Watersheds and Wildlife Program Coordinator

Thank you all for joining us for the most recent edition of the Prairie Rivers of Iowa Newsletter.  The Watersheds and Wildlife Program has been hard at work over the last few months making progress on several projects.  Some of the major work that we’ve done has been installing pollinator gardens in both Ames and Boone.

These gardens included 38 total plants from 14 species.  All plants that were included are native to Central Iowa and provide both food and shelter resources to pollinators.

Bee in Pollinator Garden

The Ames garden is located in Northridge Park, and the Boone garden is located in Cap Erbe Park.  I would like to thank Keith Abraham from the Ames Parks and Recreation Department, and April Burch from the Boone Parks Commission for all of their help.  Moving forward, we will be designing and installing informational panels that explain the benefits of these gardens.

This time of year also marks the beginning of a new initiative from the Watersheds and Wildlife Program, which is pollinator species monitoring.  Over June, July, August, and September, we will be visiting public lands in Story County, and conducting surveys on pollinators and nectar plants.  This will give us the opportunity to be able to track what species are on the landscape in real-time, while also being able to announce any findings of rare, threatened, or endangered species as we see them.  If you see me out in a Story County park with a net and binoculars, feel free to stop and say hi!