Our food doesn’t just come from the store — bringing crops from the earth to the table requires the work of thousands of people and animals. Pollinators are a crucial part of this process. In order to pay tribute to these important insects, the USPS recently released monarch butterfly and honey bee stamps.
What Do the Pollinator Stamps Feature?
The Protect Pollinators stamps feature honey bees and monarch butterflies. The honey bee stamps show bees pollinating golden ragworts and New England asters, while the butterfly stamps show monarchs pollinating zinnias, coneflowers, and goldenrods. USPS art director Derry Noyes designed each sheet of stamps to resemble a field of wildflowers full of insects hard at work. Each book of stamps also features a background photo of a monarch butterfly pollinating a goldenrod.
The stamps were dedicated at the American Philatelic Society StampShow in Richmond, Virginia, on August 3rd, 2017, but the public can now buy the stamps at any post office for $9.80 per sheet. The USPS issued the Protect Pollinators series as Forever Stamps, meaning that the stamps are always equal in value to the current one-ounce price for First Class mail.
Why Butterfly and Honey Bee Stamps?
Bees and other insects may seem annoying, but they play an important role in our ecosystem by pollinating flowers and other plants. Without them, a third of our food crops would die off. This link in nature’s chain is currently endangered. Since 1990, a third of North America’s honey bees have fallen victim to Colony Collapse Disorder, a syndrome in which thousands of worker bees have abandoned their hives and disappeared without a trace.
Scientists have had trouble figuring out why the bees vanished, putting forth a number of theories. Some blame global warming; others blame parasites and pesticides. Even though colony loss has declined over the past few years, scientists have studied colony collapse disorder and formulated steps beekeepers should take to protect their hives.
Monarch butterflies, currently classified as an endangered species, also play an important role in maintaining American wildlife because they pollinate many types of wildflowers. Over the past twenty years, many of them have vanished because of habitat loss and pesticide use. Nearly a billion have died over the past twenty years, leaving only a small fraction left.
One part of helping bees and other pollinators is making the public aware of the problem. Many magazines, newspapers, and scientific journals have written about Colony Collapse Disorder, and large sections of the public have also planted milkweed in an effort to save monarch butterflies. The United States Postal Service is also spreading awareness with the recent release of their Protect Pollinators line of stamps.
These stamps not only celebrate the beauty of bees, butterflies, and wildflowers, they also call attention to how fragile and precious our ecosystem is. Preserving these insects means preserving our food supply for future generations. If something as simple as a stamp can remind us of how important protecting our environment is, then these stamps are well worth the price.