Earlier this month, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a set of five commemorative Forever stamps dubbed “Protect Pollinators.”
The ceremony, which was held Aug. 3 in Richmond, Va., took place during the American Philatelic Society’s (APS) StampShow. The stamps depict a monarch and a coneflower; a monarch and a zinnia; and a monarch and a goldenrod; a western honeybee and a golden ragwort; and a western honeybee and a New England aster.
“Bees, butterflies and other pollinators sustain our ecosystem and are a vital natural resource,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro, who dedicated the stamps. “They are being threatened and we must protect them.”
Joining Shapiro in the dedication were APS President Mick Zais; The Pollinator Partnership President and CEO Val Dolcini; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs, Midwest Region, Charles Traxler.
“We’d like to thank the U.S. Postal Service, not only for supporting StampShow Richmond, but for bringing stamps that are sure to be a hit with collectors,” said Zais.
The five stamps, which debuted nationwide that day, are available in panes of 20 stamps with a decorative selvage. Art director Derry Noyes designed this stamp pane with existing photographs.
The Protect Pollinators set pays tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of North America’s most iconic examples—the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America. These particular species exemplify the ecological service provided by all pollinators, which include other insects, birds, and bats. Crop pollination by insects contributes approximately $15 billion of produce to the U.S. economy each year. Trending declines in their populations alert us that pollinators are helped by planting pollinator gardens with native flowers or heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and western honeybees (Apis mellifera), also called European honeybees, are two of North America’s most prominent pollinators. Both travel far and wide. Monarchs can flutter thousands of miles in one of nature’s most wondrous migrations, a multigenerational round-trip that can cross southern Canada, the north-south breadth of the contiguous U.S., and deep into Mexico, where they rest for the winter before returning north.
While western honeybees do not naturally migrate such distances, beekeepers truck their hives on long-haul migrations, accommodating agricultural growing seasons around the nation. These bees are far and away the continent’s most vital pollinators, servicing almond, citrus, peach, apple and cherry tree blossoms, plus the blossoms of berries, melons, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. Surpluses of honey, created from nectar by honeybees as a nonperishable food source for their hives, is yet another benefit to humans.
In this modern world, these pollinators need mindful human intervention in order to thrive. The hives of western honeybees have lately been raided by parasitic mites and plagued by “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious condition which disorients bees and causes them to abandon their hives. While monarch butterflies, utterly dependent on milkweed plants throughout their range and specific mountain forests in Mexico, face collapsing populations as these habitats disappear to accommodate farming, urban development and illegal logging.
Throughout North America, efforts to halt logging, study the effects of agricultural herbicides and pesticides, and plant long swaths of flowers along stretches of highway and other such rights-of-way offer promise. On a grassroots level, individuals and groups can help provide for pollinators by planting locally appropriate flowers—a win-win for people and pollinators alike.
For more information about the stamps and related “Protect Pollinators” products, click here.