The Free Press, Mankato, MN


July 17, 2013

County Extension: When it comes to pollinators -- if you build it, they will come

When it comes to pollinators -- if you build it, they will come


Unfortunately, the well-being of pollinators is on the downslide. Elizabeth Howard, founder and director of Monarch research group Journey North, recently reported to Minnesota Public Radio that last winter, the number of Monarch’s overwintering in Mexico was 60 million, down from 350 million the previous winter.

On a similar note, since 2006, beekeepers and other research organizations have reported the disappearance of over one-third of the nation’s honeybee population. This disappearance has since been named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Despite claims by the media, scientists have not yet pinpointed a single cause, but rather, suggest that this loss is due to a multitude of environmental factors -- including loss of habitat.

At the end of June of this year, our federal government, in collaboration with the Pollinator Partnership, recognized the importance of this issue by amending a farm bill to include a pollinator support component.

How can you help?

Designate an area of your yard to provide food, water, and shelter for pollinators. Here are some things to consider as you take on this challenge:

- Diversity: Variation is essential for a healthy, resilient ecosystem. A plant community varying in height, color, and bloom time creates niches to be filled by an increasingly diverse animal community. In addition, studies have found that the number of plants lost to disease, insect infestations, or drought dramatically decreases when diversity increases.

Birdbaths and feeders, as well as larger rocks, grasses, trees, and shrubs can also diversify your landscaping to meet the needs of these organisms.

- Continuous blooms: A goal for pollinator landscapes is to always have a plant in bloom. Annuals typically flower for the duration of the growing season, providing and excellent food source for pollinators. This comes with a cost, as annuals only live for one growing season, and typically require more watering and care. Therefore, many gardeners recommend focusing on native perennials.

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