This is a paid piece from the Great Plains Zoo.

Simplified: The Great Plains Zoo is intensifying its efforts to conserve Dakota skipper butterflies and other pollinators. Here’s a look at what they are doing and how you can learn more at this weekend's Flutterfest event.

Why it matters

  • Pollinators are an essential part of our ecosystem, and the Dakota skipper butterfly in particular is a critically endangered species the zoo is working to help protect.
  • The zoo has created a new pollinator garden on its campus in the last year to help encourage visitors to interact with nature and to demonstrate what a successful pollinator garden can look like.
  • Visitors can learn more not only about the zoo’s pollinator conservation efforts but also learn how to help pollinators in their own yards at Flutterfest on Saturday.
“Planting native plants helps conserve pollinators as well as helping conserve the prairie ecosystem in which we live," Conservation Director Stephanie Arne said. "We'll have lots of information at Flutterfest to help you get started."

Tell me more about Flutterfest

The event will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 10.

Visitors can stop by the zoo picnic shelter for information on the new pollinator garden and Dakota skipper breeding facility, games, and cool pollinator facts.

  • Bricks and Minifigs will also have special butterfly Lego builds for the first 100 guests who stop by.

Tell me more about conservation efforts

The zoo has long partnered with the butterfly house, as well as the Minnesota Zoo, to help conserve the Dakota skipper population.

This year, though, the zoo is increasing the intensity of its efforts.

  • Starting in July, the zoo will begin a nearly year-long project to breed the not-threatened Tawny-edged skippers as a sort of test run for what the future Dakota skipper breeding program will look like.
  • If all goes well with the Tawney-edged skippers, the zoo can apply for a permit with the federal government to start working with Dakota skipper butterflies as early as next summer.

Conserving Dakota skippers is particularly important because – though their lifespan is only about seven days – they are pollinators for important prairie plants.

"We have to remember every single species is a puzzle piece in an ecosystem," Arne said. "And whether it's seven days or three years, they all have an incredibly important role."

Tell me more about the pollinator garden

The zoo planted the pollinator garden last fall, and, while it'll take a couple of years for the plants to fully mature, visitors can already see a glimpse of its future potential.

  • Signage around the garden is inspired by local author Joyce Hoberg Kaatz's book "Raising Little Stripe," which she wrote to teach her grandchildren about Monarch butterflies, Arne said.

The garden and hoop house were made possible with the help of donations from Sammons Financial, Raven Industries and the Presentation Sisters.