Take Action this Spring to Support Pollinators
April 22, 2022
Land & Water Resources
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Natural Resources Educator, Dane County Extension
Strategic Engagement Coordinator, Dane County Land & Water Resources Department
Take Action this Spring to Support Pollinators
MADISON, WI – April 22, 2021 – 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!
“Pollinators such a honeybees and butterflies play a key role in our environment but can face adversity from challenges like pesticides and climate change,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “By considering these pollinator-friendly practices and taking action, we can be part of the solution.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP POLLINATORS?
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 and standing dead twig/stems. Leave your garden debris until the threat of frost has passed, leave patches of undisturbed ground, leaf litter, and brush year-round, and avoid using heavy or treated mulch.
Plant native plants. Pollinators forage for pollen and nectar on blooming flowers from April to October. Planting native species that bloom in early spring is 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. Schools and community groups can apply to receive free native plants from Dane County.
The Madison Public Library has four seed libraries located at Lakeview Library, Pinney Library, Goodman South Madison Library, and Meadowridge Library. This year, in addition to vegetables and herbs, they have added a limited number of native plant seeds collected by Dane County Parks volunteers. Getting seeds is free and easy: simply visit participating libraries to pick up seed packets.
Limit insecticide use and collaborate with your neighbors to lower insecticide and pesticide 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).
No 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 your yard and leaving these flowers (or at least patches of flowers) can be a big help while the pollinators wait for other plants to start blooming.
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.