The Des Moines Backyard Beekeepers March 2019 meeting was about creating habitat for pollinators. Kelsey Fleming from Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever spoke on making prairie plots.
Diverse native habitat is so important because it benefits water quality, soil, and wildlife. Pollinators are so important because 75% of flowering plants depend on pollination, 100+ crops are pollinated by animals and insects, and birds eat insects.
Honey bees came to the U.S. in the 1600s. Thousands of honey bees are now moved across the U.S. for pollination.
There are over four thousand native bee species in the United States. Native Bees are incredibly important to pollination. Characteristics of native bees vary. Some native bees nest in the ground others nest in hollow trees. Some native bees are active from April to October whereas other native bees are only active for a few weeks. A few species of native bees only forage on specific plants. Other native bees will forage on anything they can find.
There are seven hundred native butterflies. Butterflies are iconic and popular. Butterflies are pollinators, but are not as good as bees. The number of a butterflies in an environment is an indicator of the environment’s health. Everyone has heard of monarch butterflies and their migration. Common milkweed and butterfly milkweed are good for monarchs. Milkweed does not usually bloom its first year.
Other types of pollinators are wasps, birds, and moths.
The number of pollinators has decreased recently partially due to pests and diseases. The number of non-native pests has increased recently (e.g. varroa mites). Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides have been linked to the decrease in pollinators. Loss of prairies has caused the decline of native pollinators because it is becoming significantly harder for native pollinators to find food. Mowing of road ditches is an example of the decline of native plants. Mono culture has caused a decline in pollinator habitat. Because residential properties are often mostly grass, it has become harder for pollinators to find food in the city.
What can we do to help? Anyone can create habitat for pollinators. Any amount of habitat helps. An ideal pollinator habitat has flowers in bloom from April to October and diverse plant types. We can help pollinators out by not using pesticides. Bare ground allows for ground nesting bees to build homes.
Pollinator habitat benefits not only honey bees, but also butterflies, wasps , birds, moths, animals, water, and soil.