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Save a Threatened Species

Citizen scientists can reverse the decline

As native plants like the white turtlehead lose ground, so do the insects that rely on them, like the ­Baltimore checkerspot.

Too many species to count are losing their habitat as native plant communities disappear because of human land management changes and occupation by invasive species. Hundreds of native insects, including many solitary native bees and other critical pollinators, have already vanished.
    Plants and animals connected to each other for various needs are called a web. Most plants, birds and insects are part of very specific food webs. Thus, the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, the state butterfly of Maryland, lays its eggs only on turtlehead plants, which have become extremely rare.
    It takes the loss of only one critical food source to cause insect populations to crash, since many depend on a single native plant. As insects decline, so do birds. Native birds, even species that consume seeds as adults, depend on insects to feed their young.
    The largest area of land available for wildlife habitat is private, not public. Many very rare species, in particular many rare insects, depend on private land for their habitat needs. By planting natives specific to your area and vital for at-risk species, you play the most important role in reversing this rapid decline. How is actually very simple; just talk to someone who has already been successful.
    For four years, the City of Bowie has hosted an informative tour of gardens being developed as complete habitats for wildlife. The tour is part of a larger effort for Bowie to become Maryland’s fourth National Wildlife Federation-certified Community Wildlife Habitat, joining 83 communities nationally. On the tour, citizen scientists learning how to develop their own backyard habitats invite you onto their properties to show and explain how it is done. You’ll meet idea people, too, and see a range of habitat gardens, from just starting to well established.
    Sharing knowledge saves aspiring citizen scientists from mistakes and reduces the cost and time before we see results.