It’s Thursday afternoon and it is just a perfect spring day. Sixty-five degrees and little to no wind. It won’t be long until the whole state turns green.
I was thinking about a project that Nobles County Pheasants Forever and Nobles County government partnered with a few years back. The county had some acres that were being mowed, and instead of expanding the maintenance costs of those acres they decided to plant them in pollinator habitat.
It was a win-win for both pollinators and us. There is about seven acres of the project located at the Law Enforcement Center on the north end of Worthington and another eight acres located at Midway Park nine miles west of Reading.
The sites are in their third growing season and that’s about how long it takes for these kinds of plants to really get established and show their splendor. You need to wait about four weeks and then take a drive to one of these sites to see how beautiful they are.
At about that same moment I was writing this, I met up with Marlene Borenson. She is my bee lady.
The formal term is apiarist, which is a fancy term for a bee lady. She was also a partner on these sites and, for her part, she operated bee hives in each location to make sure the flowers get properly pollinated. She harvests some honey as a result.
She started beekeeping in 2004. She now operates over 500 hives and harvests approximately eight pounds of honey per hive (2.5 gallons of honey weighs 30 pounds). Pollinators, as you may or may not know, are in serious trouble these days.
Hive losses average about 33 percent per year from a variety of causes that cannot be pinpointed to exact percentages. There are hive pests called mites that kill bees. There is a lack of good pollinator habitat that very negatively affects bees. Pesticides of many kinds have negative effects on bees, successful pollination and honey production.
The human food supply would be in great peril if honey bees and other pollinators continue to suffer.
There are many species of native bees in Minnesota and the Minnesota Biological Survey had teams of researchers crisscrossing the state trying to get some kind of base line numbers of the population sizes of these native pollinators.
Once the base line numbers are calculated, they can then start to measure increases or decreases in populations. These are long term projects and not much useful data can be utilized until the data sets are more complete and have a few years on them.
All kinds of other insects also function as pollinators. There are varieties of beetles, butterflies and other creatures that play a role in overall pollinations. Some insects only pollinate or survive in specific native plants.
Pheasants Forever has been involved with education and outreach through a national pollinator program.
They participate in youth school programs and have been responsible for thousands of youngsters getting outside and helping plant these pollinator oases. We had 230 fifth-graders attend the program in Worthington when the native plant pollinator project was seeded.
A good pollinator planting will have different flowers (or forb) blooming every week from mid-March to the second week in October.
It makes sense that you need many different plants to achieve the goal. The plantings in Worthington and Midway Park had almost 100 different species of flowering plants. The greater the diversity, the better the outcome, but it also greatly increases cost.
Pollinator plantings need little maintenance after the first 2-3 years and have a life expectancy of about 10-15 years if properly managed. Burning the spots every 3-4 years in very late fall benefit the areas just like adding fertilizer to your front yard.
If you have a little spot in your backyard that you are sick of mowing or you just want to help out with the plight of honey bees and other pollinators, consider planting a small spot. As little at 5 feet by 5 feet can be of great benefit and add some color to your home place.
Spring is here. Crop planting is well ahead of any spring in the past five years. Here’s to a colorful summer full of blooming native plants anywhere you can find a place to plant them.
If you need help locating the proper seed or how to go about it, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help you get started.