By: Holly Shutt
“Pollinator” has become such a buzz word for the last few years and there is good reason for that. The monarch population has decreased by 90% in the last fifteen years which is a substantial decrease in a very short amount of time. I’m sure you all have heard of colony collapse disorder in honey bees and how detrimental the loss of that species would be for everyone. There are several native bumblebees in Iowa that are threatened. Iowa has around 370 native bees, a couple of hundred butterflies, and 2000+ moths. Habitat is a key component to the health of our pollinators. Over 500 species of butterflies use oak trees as a host species for their young. Pollinator habitat needs to take into consideration nectar plants for the adults along with nesting habitat and plant species that the young will feed on.
It’s estimated that one-third of the human diet is composed of food and drink that are directly and indirectly affected by pollinators. There are 130 agricultural crops produced in the U.S. which rely on insects for pollination, and the economic impact of crop pollination by bees has been estimated to be worth about $15 billion each year! So why not start helping the bugs?
What can we, as individuals, do about these problems? We can start by implementing best management practices to help save pollinators. The importance of bare ground and insects in the form of brood-rearing habitat is very important for upland birds. Quality brood-rearing habitat is composed of wildflower that pollinators frequently visit. The diverse plant composition attracts many insect types, providing an ideal foraging area for young chicks. We find that good brood-rearing habitat is good pollinator habitat and vice versa. Pollinator habitat is the cover type most lacking on the landscape and adding more of that cover type to the landscape it will help pollinators, upland birds, and other wildlife species.
Because of the importance of pollinator habitat to bugs and birds, I would encourage everyone to get out there and plant some! Growing beneficial pollinator habitat can be done virtually anywhere. A planting of any size will help the bugs and, directly or indirectly, wildlife. You can convert an underutilized area of a crop field, an old garden; who cares if it just a half-acre or smaller–just get some flowers growing. You aren’t a traditional landowner with land? No problem. Neither am I. That doesn’t mean that you can’t help turn the corner for pollinators. Start using native plants in your landscaping. One of the most important species you can plant is something from the milkweed (Asclepias) genus. There are a lot of different milkweed species you could choose from. One of my favorites is butterfly milkweed. It doesn’t get too tall and works well for landscaping because it won’t overshadow the other plants in the plot. Purple coneflower is a good one as well, as it doesn’t get so tall and shade out other landscape plants and it grows fairly straight. A couple of other important flowers for pollinators are purple prairie clover and hoary vervain. Instead of using some cultivar of ornamental grass, use Indian grass or little bluestem as they both have pretty fall foliage as well.
Monarch waystations are a great thought as well in an urban area. A Monarch waystation is basically a site that is developed as a layover point for monarchs on their migration. It has a handful of different milkweeds, which are the monarch’s host plant, along with a variety of nectar plants.
A person could even certify their site as a Monarch waystation and do monarch tagging for the Monarch Watch organization. In the spring Monarchs migrate up from Mexico, and over half of which stop in the Midwest. As the summer goes on the Monarch completes its life cycle and come fall the third generation of Monarch’s migrate back down to Mexico. Developing a Monarch waystation is a cool thought for a yard, a school project, or anywhere! To learn more about Monarch waystations, visit www.monarchwatch.org.
It is important to think about what chemicals you are using. The Xerces Society has some great books on farming, and landscaping for native pollinators, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects and Attracting Native Pollinators, both can be found at www.xerces.org. Blank Park Zoo also has some great resources with their Plant.Grow.Fly. initiative. You can learn more at www.blankparkzoo.com. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever has a team of Farm Bill Wildlife Biologists across the state who help landowners and producers enhance their land for wildlife. We work with them to develop a plan to meet their goals and objectives for the land. meet their They are also different cost-share opportunities available.
Remember, reducing your pesticide use and providing areas with native wildflowers will help maintain the population of insects that we have, and by creating more pollinator habitat in the urban areas, there will be more bugs to come around the rural areas for the chicks to feed on. Everything in nature is connected through relationships and food webs. If you are interested in enhancing wildlife habitat on your property, please reach out to Holly Shutt, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-294-2004.
Mossy Oak Properties Boley Real Estate would like to thank Holly Shutt and the Pheasants Forever Organization for providing us with this information! Here at Mossy Oak Properties, we want to be sure we pass along information important to you in regards to outdoor recreation, agriculture, and home. Check out more information on our Mossy Oak Properties Boley Real Estate Facebook page or on our Website found HERE. We have certified land specialists that have hunting land for sale, agricultural land for sale, and residential properties for sale.