10 Ways to Expand the Pollinator Highway
Increase Pollinator Habitat: Create a pollinator island. Plant flowers, understanding that it takes new bees, newbies 😊, time to ‘learn’ how to get nectar. Simple flowers like goldenrods or echinacea are easy for bees to navigate. Complex flowers like the snap-dragon can take over 6 visits to 'learn' 9. Container gardens offer a wonderful way to add a pit stop to the pollinator corridor. For more tips, visit The Pollinator Partnership's ‘Ecoregional Planting Guides’.
Use Native Plants: Native plants are more resistant to drought and easier to care for. Also, native plants have evolved with the local ecosystem. This means pollinators are more effective when harvesting and using these plants 11. Native grasses (larval host plants), provide a ‘windbreaker’ refuge for butterflies. Along with bee habitats, they offer over-wintering sites. They also reduce flooding and soil erosion 11. Don't plant them in an area where they will shade the sunny pollinator garden spot 11.
Don’t Forget Host Plants: Pollinators need plants to forage on and lay eggs (larval host plants). These plants shelter egg-laying butterflies and moths - and have evolved to provide food for emerging insects 11. Oak trees are a wonderful larval host plant for butterflies 11. Ever heard of a bee hotel or a butterfly house?
Connect Gardens to Create Corridors: Travel expends immense pollinator energy. Most bee pollinators’ range extends from a few hundred feet to a mile. It is important that they can both forage and nest within that range 11. Join neighbors to connect your yards and patios to create pollinator ‘corridors’ 11.
Offer Water: Provide thirsty bees with water in a shallow saucer. Fill it with un-colored pebbles so they don’t drown 11.
Increase Diversity of Plants: List of pollinator-friendly plants per region here: www.ecobeneficial.com/PVG
Increase Plant Availability: Provide a 3-foot radius, plant 'target', to offer enough foraging area 11. Or repeat the plant throughout the landscape for the same effect.
Appeal to Native Bees: Target bee specialists, to encourage native species to thrive 11. Bonus: Many bee generalists will also feed on specialized plants, like blueberries.
Stop Pesticide Use, Especially Neonicotinoids: Start a neighborhood task force to create pollinator-friendly sanctuaries. 🗈 A note about neonicotinoids: Most insecticides cover a plant and wash off with rain. But neonicotinoids are ‘eaten’ by the plant. The chemical travels to new areas of the plant as it grows, including the nectar and pollen 9. See the list here.
Contact your local gardening extension for one-on-one help to learn more. I highly recommend this well-organized guide on growing your pollinator sanctuary: The Pollinator Victory Garden
Did you enjoy this post? Read The State of the Pollinator Highway Infrastructure
Minnesota residents: Check out the Lawns to Legumes grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources 3. “The grant will reimburse people for costs associated with establishing pollinator habitat. Recipients are required to contribute a 25% match in the form of purchasing materials, hiring contractors or as in-kind time spent planting and maintaining their projects.” Apply here by June 30.