As the saying goes, “not all heroes wear capes!” With or without a cape, you can be a hero for local wildlife by taking action in your very own backyard!
Did you know that three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and one-third of the food humans consume rely on pollinators to reproduce? Without these valuable ecosystem players our world would be much less vibrant and considerably less tasty. Unfortunately, pollinator numbers are declining at alarming rates – 1 in 4 wild bee species in the U.S. is imperiled and at an increasing risk of extinction. Habitat loss, disease, pesticides, and climate change threaten pollinators across the globe.
Pollinators, including butterflies, bees, beetles, and flies, need us to act on their behalf. We can take collective action by planting for pollinators and following these helpful steps:
- Choose a variety of native plants for your garden or boulevard that flower year-round. Pollinators need a variety of resources at different times throughout the year so it’s helpful to aim to have flowers blooming throughout the season. Not sure where to start? Milkweeds are a great, easy option that many insects love, including monarch butterflies. Other favorites are New England aster, purple coneflowers, and black-eyed Susan.
- Include native grasses if you can! Native grasses provide valuable habitat and food for many pollinators. Little bluestem, prairie dropseed and blue grama are all great options and make beautiful additions to a home landscape.
- Many pesticides and fertilizers can harm and kill insects and pollute groundwater. Reduce or eliminate your use of pesticides and fertilizers on your lawn and garden.
- Don’t dig in or rake too early. With the coming of spring, it can be tempting to grab a rake and head to the garden. But did you know that a variety of insects likely hunkered down for the winter in your leaf litter and dead plant matter? Help overwintering bees and other garden residents by waiting to start digging in until temperatures are consistently above 50°F.
- Be a lazy gardener! Overwintering insects utilize leaf litter and dead standing plants to make it through the sub-zero temps. Instead of clearing out your garden each fall, be a “lazy” gardener and leave all that plant debris for garden residents.