The definition of an endangered species is any organism that is at very high risk of becoming extinct. Meaning, the population of that organism is so low, that it could disappear forever, the way the dinosaurs did.


The main factors causing the endangerment of some wild prairie species are:


• Habitat destruction: Urban and agricultural development has reduced the amount of natural prairie habitat for endangered species to live in. The suppression of wild prairie fires that prevent the encroachment of forest habitat on prairies has also caused the size of the prairies to shrink.

• Introduction of exotic species such as weeds, insects and other pests: Introduced garden plants and weeds such as Leafy Spurge have over-run prairie habitats and choked out many native species of plants. Often introduced species do not have any natural insects or animals that eat it and control its population size.

Native insect pollinator populations are threatened by the replacement of their preferred plants with introduced ones. Introduced honeybees may compete with native pollinators for nectar and pollen in some prairies. Introduced pa Read More

The definition of an endangered species is any organism that is at very high risk of becoming extinct. Meaning, the population of that organism is so low, that it could disappear forever, the way the dinosaurs did.


The main factors causing the endangerment of some wild prairie species are:


• Habitat destruction: Urban and agricultural development has reduced the amount of natural prairie habitat for endangered species to live in. The suppression of wild prairie fires that prevent the encroachment of forest habitat on prairies has also caused the size of the prairies to shrink.

• Introduction of exotic species such as weeds, insects and other pests: Introduced garden plants and weeds such as Leafy Spurge have over-run prairie habitats and choked out many native species of plants. Often introduced species do not have any natural insects or animals that eat it and control its population size.

Native insect pollinator populations are threatened by the replacement of their preferred plants with introduced ones. Introduced honeybees may compete with native pollinators for nectar and pollen in some prairies. Introduced parasites can kill wild pollinators or make them sick.

• Chemical pesticides: Some chemical insecticides for gardens, lawns or agricultural crops can kill wild pollinators. The use of herbicides may reduce the abundance of wild plant species, such as milkweeds, that rare pollinators feed on.

Pollinating animals, such as insects, are very important for maintaining a healthy prairie ecosystem. Sometimes, populations of pollinating insects go unstudied until it’s too late, and they are gone, or so low in number they cannot be saved. Some endangered prairie plants rely on specific insects to pollinate it. Some insects are the only pollinators of certain plants. The inter-dependent relationship between the plant and its pollinating insects is such that when the population of one becomes dangerously low, so does the population of the other. If one should become extinct, then the other one may follow.


One of the most important and urgent actions we can take to keep endangered prairie species from becoming extinct is educating people and letting them know about the problem. The more people know about the problem, the more people can adopt more environmentally friendly habits, teach other people, encourage governments and businesses to help protect endangered species, or even volunteer for organizations that help endangered species.


© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Some of Canada’s rarest plants grow in the prairies. Most of them are threatened due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Animal-pollinated plants can also become rare if their pollinators become rarer. The 14 insect-pollinated plants in this learning object collection are considered nationally rare and are protected by Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act.
Some of Canada’s rarest plants grow in the prairies. Most of them are threatened due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Animal-pollinated plants can also become rare if their pollinators become rarer. The 14 insect-pollinated plants in this learning object collection are considered nationally rare and are protected by Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A video about the rare Western Prairie Fringed Orchid and its pollinators.

Visit the Tall-grass Prairie Preserve and find out how biologist Christie Borkowsky discovered who pollinated the rare and beautiful Western Prairie Fringed Orchid.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - Mystery of the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Christie Borkowsky, Biologist, Critical Wildlife Habitat Program and Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany, The Manitoba Museum. 

For decades, no one knew which insects pollinated the beautiful Western Prairie Fringed Orchid in Canada. However, this mystery was recently solved by Dr. Richard Westwood and Christie Borkowsky. I’m out at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve near Gardenton, Manitoba where the world’s largest population of endangered Western Prairie Fringed Orchids lives, to talk to Christie about her work here. Christie, why did it take so long to figure out what insects pollinates this plant?
Well, part of it is because these orchids, which bloom so nicely during the daytime, their pollinators are actually active at the night time. So when most people are out looking at these orchids, they’re sort of at the wrong time of the day to actually catch these pollinators in action.
So then how did you actually find out what pollinates them? Were you out here with night vision goggles, or did you use something different?
Well, night vision goggles would have been an interesting twist on field work, however, what we did have instead were ultraviolet, or black light insect traps that we used during the flowering period for these orchids. That was the first step. After we were able to narrow down the type of insects that might be pollinating them, we used a couple of different types of traps called a cone trap or a malaise trap. And these two things are general insect collectors, but we had them placed in the field, in patches of orchids, hoping to capture some of these pollinators after they had visited these orchids.
So how did you know whether the insects you were seeing had actually visited the orchid?
Well, one time when we were emptying out the insect trap, we were looking at some of the moths that were in there. And we found two Sphinx moths that had the orchid pollinia, or the orchid pollen, stuck to their eyes. So it was the nice connection between the pollinator visiting the flowers, and confirming that they were definitely in these flowers when they had the orchid pollen stuck to them.
So that’s how your mystery was solved.
That was it.
Great! Thanks for talking to us, Christie.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A video about the rare Hairy Prairie-clover plant and its pollinators.

Travel with Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson to Spruce Woods Provincial Park to find out how to save rare plants like the Hairy Prairie-clover.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - Saving a Species
Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.

When a species becomes endangered, scientists often work to determine how to save it from extinction. I’m here at Spruce Woods Provincial Park with Dr. Diana Robson from the Manitoba Museum, to learn more about what scientists do to help save rare plants.
So Dr. Robson, which species are you currently studying?
I’m studying a rare plant called Hairy Prairie-clover and it only grows in mixed-grass prairie areas that have some active sand dunes in them.
Is this it?
Yes, that’s it right there. It’s got very fuzzy leaves and it’s got quite beautiful lilac flowers on it.
Do you know which species are its pollinators?
Well, that was the interesting thing. Nobody had actually recorded which insects pollinated this plant up until fairly recently. I’ve discovered that it’s actually visited by a really wide range of bees and wasps and hoverflies and even butterflies. This kind of information is very important for preparing conservation plans for rare plants because you need to know how organisms interact with other organisms in their environment.
So how will the information that you’re collecting help to conserve this species?
Well, scientists have to prepare a recovery plan for every species that’s endangered, and this plan basically sums up all of the information that scientists know about the plant and it also makes recommendations for how land managers can change their practices to help protect the plant.
That’s really interesting. Thank you for sharing your research with us.
Thanks for talking to me.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A video about the pollinators of the rare Western Silvery Aster plant.

Learn more about the intricate plant-pollinator interaction web that the rare Western Silvery Aster plant is part of from Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - Webs of Western Silvery Aster
Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum

Over the past several years, Dr. Diana Robson from the Manitoba Museum has been sitting on this little stool here in Bird’s Hill Provincial Park staring at the plants growing in the tall grass prairie. Today, I’m here to find out why. Dr. Robson, what have you been doing out here for the past few years?
Well, I’ve actually been documenting which insect species pollinate the different plants that grow here on the tall grass prairie portions of the park.
Have you been focusing on any species in particular?
Yes, I’ve been looking a lot at this particular plant right here. It’s Western Silvery Aster. It’s got the very pretty pink petals and silvery leaves and the reason I’ve been focusing on it is because it’s endangered here in Canada.
Do you know what its pollinators are?
I’ve documented at least 21 insect species that visit this plant and are its likely pollinators. Interesting thing is that those same insects are actually visiting a wide variety of plants in the park before this plant even flowers in late August.
What does all that mean?
Well, it means that you can’t conserve a species in isolation. You actually have to protect all of the plants and the insects that are connected to it. Everything in the park is connected to each other in some way. It’s like a giant interaction web, kind of like a computer network.
That’s very interesting. Thank you Dr. Robson.
You’re welcome.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Birds Hill Provincial Park, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photo of a Gattinger’s Agalinis plant.

Gattinger’s Agalinis.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Manitoba Conservation Data Centre. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Hairy Prairie-clover plant.

Hairy Prairie-clover.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Hare-footed Locoweed plant.

Hare-footed Locoweed.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Cheryl Bradley. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Riddell's Goldenrod with flower flies and an ambush bug on its flowers.

Riddell's Goldenrod, flower flies and an ambush bug.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Sarah Semmler. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Rough Agalinis plant.

Rough Agalinis.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Manitoba Conservation Data Centre. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Sand Verbena plant.

Sand Verbena.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Cliff Wallis. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Slender Mouse-ear Cress plant.

Slender Mouse-ear Cress.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Cliff Wallis. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Small White Lady's-slipper plant.

Small White Lady's-slipper.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Manitoba Conservation Data Centre. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Soapweed plant.

Soapweed.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Matt Lavin (Flickr: Yucca glauca) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Tiny Cryptanthe plant.

Tiny Cryptanthe.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Cliff Wallis. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Western Blue Flag plant.

Western Blue Flag.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Walter Siegmund (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All rights reserved.


Photo of a Western Prairie Fringed Orchid plant.

Western Prairie Fringed Orchid.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a bee fly on a Western Silvery Aster flower head.

Bee fly on Western Silvery Aster.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Western Spiderwort plant.

Western Spiderwort.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Manitoba Conservation Data Centre. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


The rarity of most of Canada’s pollinators has not yet been determined. However, some of the butterflies and moths have been studied by scientists, and are considered rare in Canada. Most of these species are rare due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Some depend exclusively on certain plant species for their survival. The ten insects in this learning object collection are protected by Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act.
The rarity of most of Canada’s pollinators has not yet been determined. However, some of the butterflies and moths have been studied by scientists, and are considered rare in Canada. Most of these species are rare due to the loss and fragmentation of their habitat. Some depend exclusively on certain plant species for their survival. The ten insects in this learning object collection are protected by Canada’s Species-at-Risk Act.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A video about the endangered butterflies and moths that live in prairie sand hills.

Manitoba Conservation Biologist Chris Friesen talks about the unusual endangered moths and butterflies that live in prairie sand hills.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - Endangered Prairie Moths and Butterflies
Chris Friesen, Biodiversity Information Manager, Manitoba Conservation Data Centre, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.

Today I’m visiting one of Manitoba’s most unique environments: the Carberry Sand Hills. I’m here talking to Chris Friesen, a biologist with Manitoba Conservation, about some of the endangered species that live in the mixed grass prairie sand dunes. So Chris, what kinds of endangered insects live in this barren environment?
Well Melissa, there’s a number of rare insects that live here including a number of moth and butterfly species that call this home.
Why do so many rare insects live here?
Well, there’s not many sand dune complexes like this left in Canada so any species that rely on open sand like this don’t have many places to live.
What do these insects eat?
Well, the babies, the larvae, eat plants. The Gold-edged Gem Moth, for example, only eats the leaves of the prairie sunflower. The adult moths and butterflies will eat nectar from the flowers.
Thanks for talking to us today about some of Canada’s rarest and least well-known endangered species.
You’re welcome.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Dakota Skipper butterfly.

Dakota Skipper.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bryan E. Reynolds/www.botwf.org. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a preserved Gold-edged Gem moth specimen.

Gold-edged Gem.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Rebecca Bilsky

TMM 11100
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Monarch butterfly on a Dotted Blazingstar flower head.

Monarch on Dotted Blazingstar.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Mormon Metalmark butterfly.

Mormon Metalmark.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bryan E. Reynolds/www.botwf.org. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of an Ottoe Skipper butterfly on Purple Coneflower.

Ottoe Skipper on Purple Coneflower.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bryan E. Reynolds/www.botwf.org. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a preserved Pale Yellow Dune Moth specimen.

Pale Yellow Dune Moth.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Rebecca Bilsky

TMM 10681
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Poweshiek Skipperling butterfly on Black-eyed Susan.

Poweshiek Skipperling on Black-eyed Susan.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Sarah Semmler. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Weidemeyer’s Admiral butterfly.

Weidemeyer’s Admiral.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bryan E. Reynolds/www.botwf.org. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a White Flower Moth.

White Flower Moth.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Chris Friesen. Used with permission

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Yucca Moth on a Soapweed flower.

Yucca Moth on a Soapweed flower.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Steve Marshall. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Description:

When people think of endangered species, plants and pollinating insects are not usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, prairie habitats are home to some of the rarest plants and insects in Canada. We still have a lot to learn about these endangered species. An endangered prairie plant and pollinator fair is a great way to get this information out to the public, so we can help these populations survive!

As a class project, students will work in partners, small groups or independently to create a “booth” at an informational fair on endangered prairie plants and insect pollinators. Each working group or student can select from a list of projects and activities to present at their booth. Other students and parents can be invited to come out and learn about these unique and rare prairie species!

Method:

1. Use the information in this learning object collection to introduce students to the endangered plants and pollinating insects that live in prairie habitats. Have students view the videos: Mystery of the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Saving a Species, Endangered Prairie Moths and Butterflies, a Read More
Description:

When people think of endangered species, plants and pollinating insects are not usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, prairie habitats are home to some of the rarest plants and insects in Canada. We still have a lot to learn about these endangered species. An endangered prairie plant and pollinator fair is a great way to get this information out to the public, so we can help these populations survive!

As a class project, students will work in partners, small groups or independently to create a “booth” at an informational fair on endangered prairie plants and insect pollinators. Each working group or student can select from a list of projects and activities to present at their booth. Other students and parents can be invited to come out and learn about these unique and rare prairie species!

Method:

1. Use the information in this learning object collection to introduce students to the endangered plants and pollinating insects that live in prairie habitats. Have students view the videos: Mystery of the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, Saving a Species, Endangered Prairie Moths and Butterflies, and Webs of Western Silvery Aster.

2. Divide your class into working groups. Have each group select an activity or project to give at the informational fair. Potential activities or projects include:

a. Informational brochures and posters: Research one of the endangered prairie plants and the insects that pollinate it. Create informational brochures and posters that can be displayed at a fair booth, or around the school or neighbourhood. Include important information such as: what the plant requires from its habitat to live, what kind of relationship it has with its pollinating insect, why it is endangered, and what is being done to help save it.

b. Endangered prairie plant and pollinator board or card game: Choose one or two plants and/or pollinator insects. Research the factors that have caused the populations to become endangered and possible solutions to bring the populations up to healthy numbers. Create a board or card game that includes pitfalls and successes, that ultimately ends with saving the species. Have visitors try your game out!

c. Informational slide show or video: Create an informational slide show or video on the relationship between an endangered prairie plant and its pollinating insects. Show how important these relationships are and how these relationships are inter-dependent and vulnerable to our actions. Show the video or slideshow on a lap top at your “booth”.

d. Endangered species trading cards: Create a set of endangered prairie plant and insect pollinator trading cards. List the “stats” of each species on back, including the organisms that it interacts with, why the plant and/or pollinators are endangered, and what is being done to help them. Display your cards at your booth at the fair.

e. Going local: Research the issues in your area that pertain to endangered prairie plants and their insect pollinators. Organize a letter writing campaign or petition for your local government to ensure better protection for these species and habitats. Display a sample of your letter at the fair, along with the research you did on your area. Encourage people at the fair to take action to help endangered species as well.

f. Habitat clean-up: Sometimes one of the factors that threaten a habitat or plant population is litter and garbage. Organize a prairie habitat clean up with your class, school or neighbourhood. Have visitors’ sign up and pledge to clean up a habitat that is littered.

g. Endangered prairie plant tour: If you are lucky enough to have a prairie near you, research the plants and pollinators that live there. Are there any endangered species that can be viewed safely without damaging the habitat or plant? Develop a short tour to show visitors’ first-hand the wonders of a prairie habitat, and the unique species and relationships that live there.

3. Allow students to visit the Prairie Pollination website to obtain more information for their projects. The Resources section has links to other websites and books on plants and pollinators.

4. After the students have completed their projects, pick a date for the fair (perhaps in conjunction with a school event or holiday such as Earth Day). Send out invitations and have fun!

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
-learn about Canada’s endangered prairie plants and pollinators;
-understand that many rare plants depend on pollinators and that pollinators depend on plants;
-understand the reasons why some plants and pollinators are becoming rare;
-explore current literature on endangered plants and pollinators; and
-use their research skills and creativity to prepare materials for an endangered plant and pollinator information fair.


Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans