Take Action this Spring to Support Pollinators
April 12, 2023
Land & Water Resources
Take Action this Spring to Support Pollinators
MADISON - April 12, 2023 – People aren’t the only ones that hunker down for the winter – pollinators do too! As the weather starts to warm up and they begin to emerge, it’s a great time to think about simple actions you can take to help support them.
Pollinators are animals that visit flowering plants and transfer pollen from flower to flower, thus aiding plant reproduction. North American pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, flower flies, beetles, hummingbirds, and in some parts of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, nectar-feeding bats. Bees purposefully collect pollen as a protein source for their offspring, making them very efficient pollinators.
Pollinators are essential to our environment as an estimated 87% of flowering plants globally rely on pollinators. They help make our ecosystems viable and provide us with food as 150 food crops in the U.S. depend on pollinators (USDA). Odds are, you can thank a pollinator for the last meal you ate.
Unfortunately, pollinator populations have declined due to habitat loss, nutritional deficiency, pests, pathogens, insecticides, and extreme weather events. The good news is that there are several actions you can take to help pollinators!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP POLLINATORS?
Assess the quality of the pollinator habitat Assess the quality of the pollinator habitat you have at your home, school, community center, or any other place you love. The Wisconsin Online Pollinator Habitat Assessment can help you evaluate a site and identify actions you can take to support pollinator habitat.
Provide nesting habitat. Pollinators will build nests and overwinter in undisturbed bare ground, leaf litter, dead wood (downed logs), rock piles, and standing dead twigs/stems. Leave flower stalks intact over the winter and when pruning dead stalks in the spring, leave approximately 8-24” for future nesting habitat (Xerces Society).
Plant native plants. Pollinators forage for pollen and nectar on the blooming flowers of herbaceous plants, shrubs, and even trees from April to October. Planting native species that bloom in early spring are incredibly helpful for pollinators, as food sources can be scarce early in spring. Native plants and seeds can be purchased from local and regional plant nurseries that specialize in native plants, as well as the Wisconsin Arboretum and Plant Dane plant sales. Schools and community groups can apply to receive free native plants from Dane County.
Need help planning a native garden? Sign up for a free, hands-on Planting for Pollinators workshop on June 21 where you can learn all about our pollinators, design a native garden to attract them, AND leave with plants to start your garden!
Several libraries in the county have free native seed available in the fall so the community can take home and plant native seeds. This includes several Madison Public Libraries, the Monona Public Library and the Oregon Public Library. Check with the library to make sure they still have seeds available before you make a trip.
Limit insecticide and herbicide use and collaborate with your neighbors to lower their use in your area. Pollinators may be exposed to pesticides in numerous ways, including direct contact with spray residue on plants, through ingestion of contaminated pollen and nectar, or through exposure to contaminated nesting sites or materials (Xerces Society).
Low Mow May. There are several early blooming flowers that often pop up in lawns that aren’t regularly treated with herbicides. In some places, these may be the only nectar sources available to bees and other emerging pollinators this time of year. Waiting longer in the spring before mowing, mowing less often, raising the height of your mower, and leaving patches of flowers in your yard are all great first steps to helping pollinators.
POLLINATOR WEEK EVENTS
Celebrate Pollinator Week (June 19-23) by attending an event to increase your pollinator knowledge:
- June 21 - Planting for Pollinators - design a garden and leave with plants!
- June 22 - Wisconsin Bumble Bees 101
Natural Resources Educator, Dane County Extension
Strategic Engagement Coordinator, Dane County Land & Water Resources Department
About Dane County Land & Water Resources Department
The Dane County Land & Water Resources Department works to protect and enhance Dane County’s natural, cultural, and historic resources. It provides the county’s residents with a broad array of accessible, high quality resource-based recreational services and facilities, and supports residents, communities, local governments and other agencies and organizations in their resource management and protection activities.
About UW-Madison Extension Dane County
We teach, learn, lead and serve, connecting people with the University of Wisconsin, and engaging with them in transforming lives and communities.