In a one-half acre plot in his backyard, prairie enthusiast Mike Halverson has seen many benefits of planting over 125 different species during the last 15 years.
“I’ve noticed a tremendous increase in bees, butterflies, dragonflies and birds using my yard,” said Halverson, a retired Minnesota Department of Natural Resources employee.
Images taken by Halverson in his yard grace a new poster that highlights the importance of bees and butterflies, and points out ways in which people can enhance pollinator habitat. The poster is now available at no charge by contacting the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157, 888-646-6367 or by visiting the Roadsides Web page and clicking on “Pollinators and Roadsides.”
Pollinators are critically important to ecosystems and human food production.
Although the poster highlights roadside habitats, the principles can be applied almost anywhere, including shorelines, yards, schools or other public areas. The poster offers tips anyone can use for helping bees and butterflies by improving bee nesting habitat and selecting appropriate nectar and pollen-producing plants.
“Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators from the environment,” said Carmelita Nelson, DNR Roadsides for Wildlife coordinator. “For example, the number of migrating Monarch butterflies sank to the lowest number ever last year, but we’ve also seen declines in the number of honey bees, native bees, birds, bats and other butterflies.”
Pollinator insects rely on plants for nectar and pollen for food and many plants rely on these pollinator insects for pollination in something called a symbiotic relationship – a relationship in which both the plant and the pollinator insect benefit from each other. Many of the foods we enjoy depend on pollinator insects. Foods like tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, apples, melons, sunflowers, pumpkins, plums, squash and canola all depend on pollinating insects to produce.
Some native species of bumblebees are excellent pollinators and can even increase size and abundance of fruit compared to pollination by honeybees. To illustrate the importance of the role of pollinators, 87 of the world’s 124 most commonly cultivated crops are pollinated by insects and other animals. More than 80 percent of the world’s 250,000 flowering plants depend on animals for pollination.
Unfortunately, these important workers in the environment are on decline. Habitat loss, pesticide use, diseases, parasites and the spread of invasive species are the major causes of pollinator decline. Threats to pollinator communities affect not only pollinators themselves but also natural ecosystems, agricultural productivity, and ultimately food on our tables.
Anyone can help pollinators. Practices to enhance bee habitat around farms, gardens and roadsides include:
- Increasing flower diversity.
- Using native wildflowers and grasses, with high densities of flowers.
- Planting a minimum of three plant species that bloom during spring, summer and fall.
- Aiming for season-long blooming plants, with early and late season blooming plants being especially important.
- Planting a range of wildflowers of varying colors and shapes.
- Providing warm season, clump-forming grasses for bumblebee nest sites.
- Delaying mowing or haying entire grassy meadows or roadsides, leaving some habitat for pollinators.
- Reducing tillage and avoiding plastic ground cover sheeting for ground nesting bees.
- Avoiding or minimizing the use of insecticides.
For more information about the Roadsides for Wildlife program, visit the Roadsides Web page or contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.