by Aleli Balagtas
In a world without bees, your next plate of food would have considerably less variety. By some estimates, one of every three bites of food we take depends on pollinators like bees.
Pollinators are the small creatures—among them bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds—that carry pollen from plant to plant as they forage, unknowingly performing an important step in the production of fruits and seeds.
In recent years, there have been alarming declines in various pollinator populations. According to the USDA, beekeepers lost an average of one-third of their colonies every winter from 2006 to 2011. In the last couple of decades, the monarch butterfly population has declined 90 percent in North America.
This is worrisome. Consider the following: more than 80 percent of plants depend on pollinators for survival. In this country alone, bees and other insect pollinators contribute more than $24 billion a year to the economy.
This is a global problem, but you can do your part to help solve it. Here’s what you can do to establish a pollinator-friendly environment in your own yard.
- Choose native plants. Pollinators and plants that evolved in the same areas generally benefit one another. For example, milkweed attracts monarch butterflies because it is the only plant their caterpillars eat.
- Avoid chemicals. Weeds can be controlled with eco-friendly mulch instead of herbicide, and compost will enrich your soil in place of fertilizer.
- Plant a raingarden. These shallow depressions are planted with native vegetation and provide habitat for pollinators while cleaning stormwater naturally as it soaks into the ground, diverting polluted runoff from our waterways.
These steps will help provide food and resources pollinators need to survive, reduce chemicals that are potentially harmful to these populations and our watershed, and keep our Field Regina Northrop neighborhood beautiful, as well.
Raingardens are not only beautiful, but smart. These bowl-shaped gardens capture runoff from roofs, driveways, and yards and allow the water to soak into the soil and be used by native plants rather than run into our local water bodies. Raingardens also function as habitats for bees, butterflies, and other insects and small animals that pollinate plants.
Want to learn more? Metro Blooms, a non-profit organization based in the Twin Cities, will be offering a raingarden workshop at Nokomis Community Center, 2401 East Minnehaha Parkway, on Saturday, April 25, from 1–4 p.m., “Raingardens and Beyond: Clean Water; Healthy Habitats.” Cost is $15 and includes information on healthy gardening practices and yard care, native plants, and DIY raingarden design and installation. Workshop attendees also have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a landscape designer and Hennepin County Master Gardener.
Learn more, including other dates, locations, and times at www.metroblooms.org Just click on “Raingarden Workshops.”
Aleli Balagtas is a freelance writer interested in gardening ecologically.