Conserve Indiana: Native plants can help create a pollinator-friendly landscape
This week goes to the birds and the bees – and to all of the other pollinators that keep our world growing and productive. June 16-22 is National Pollinator Week, and its intent is to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators to plants, animals, and humans.
Pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than 80 percent of the world’s flowers. Without the hard work of pollinators, our plates would become scrawny and charming landscapes would become an eye sore. That’s why it’s important to keep bees, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, birds and other critters around so they can continue pollinating the plants that provide food, medicine, and fiber – all goods essential to our quality of life.
“About one-third of all the food we eat depends on their pollination,” said Jerry Raynor, Indiana NRCS State Conservationist. “By providing pollinator’s key food sources like nectar and pollen producing plants, we are also keeping ourselves healthy.”
Unfortunately, many of the world’s pollinators are at risk. Studies have shown that about a third of the nation’s managed honeybee colonies are lost each year, a trend that has held steady. Likewise, we are seeing a reduced number of butterflies and other crucial pollinators due to habitat loss and other environmental factors.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), along with other agencies and nonprofit groups, have assembled to help restore and protect pollinator populations, and there are things everyone can do in their own backyard to help pollinators flourish. Taking the right steps to create pollinator habitat and healthy forage can help reverse their decline.
This week, help celebrate National Pollinator Week by:
Using pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape like native shrubs, wildflowers, and trees which provide pollen or nectar early in the spring when food is scarce.
Planting a diverse mixture of flowers for spring, summer and fall. Diverse flower colors, shapes, and scents attract a variety of fluttering and crawling pollinator friends. If you have limited space, you can plant flowers in containers on a patio, balcony, and even window boxes.
Finding non-chemical solutions to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides in your landscape. Incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control and, if you do use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly.
Accepting some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
Providing clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches.
Leaving dead tree trunks, also called “snags,” in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.
Supporting land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have appropriate habitat.
But backyard conservationists aren’t the only ones that can help protect our pollinators. NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to help landowners manage for pollinator habitat on farms and forests. With assistance from NRCS, producers and conservation partners can plant nectar-rich plants along field borders, in buffers along waterways or around wetlands, in pastures and other suitable locations.
If you’re interested in technical and financial assistance from NRCS, please contact your local USDA County Conservationist, Deborah Knepp or your local St Joseph County SWCD County Conservationist, Sarah Longenecker at (574) 936-2024 Ext. 4. They will help you develop a conservation plan customized to your land, and if you’re interested, apply for financial assistance through Farm Bill conservation programs.
For more information on protecting pollinators, visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/. For information on NRCS programs, visit www.in.nrcs.usda.gov.