Get With It, Build Some Habitat!

Bees and butterflies love bee balm
Bees and butterflies love bee balm

We are all worried about our bees and our butterflies! Have you ever wondered why in a city full of gardens of flowers there are so few bees and butterflies? In contrast, I observe a large diversity of bees and butterflies walking roads in northern Wisconsin where deer eat every flower within reach. The city, teaming with flowers, has less pollinators?





What is the reason?

  1. Chemicals: “The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service says homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre than
  2. Unattractive flowers: Many of the attractive flowers we purchase have been hybridized so they don’t appeal to bees and butterflies.
  3. Habitat: A combination of the two above. Have we destroyed so much native habitat that pollinators are not interested in the flowers we plant?

The purpose of this post is to encourage you to reduce or eliminate the chemicals you use in your yard. and build habitat for our pollinators by planting more native plants in your yard. Native plants do not need chemicals.  With their deep root structure natives are flood and drought resistant. Also, they are resistant to invasive pests.  But the best about natives is that the bees , butterflies and birds love them, and they love areas without chemicals!

It is important we plant for our pollinators. What can you do to help?

** Take a pledge not to use chemicals nor dump them into drains:  The Great Healthy Yard Project

** Build Habitat: Find a sunny place in your yard to plant pollinator loving plants  or some native shrubs or trees.  Plant bee balm, milkweed, liatris, cone flowers, asters and golden rod.

**Enjoy and appreciate your new visiting pollinators, healthier air, and cleaner water to drink   Take a pledge to not use chemicals in your yard!

** Always ask if plants you purchase have been treated with neonicotinoids, and NEVER use these products or plants with neonicotinoids.

Purple cone flowers appeal to birds, bees and butterflies
Purple cone flowers appeal to birds, bees and butterflies  An interview with Dave Goulson

Anise Hyssop
Anise Hyssop


Styrofoam: Who should take responsibility?

Letter published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Styrofoam pulled out of Minneapolis lakes
Styrofoam pulled out of Minneapolis lakes


It is a real, and lingering, problem

Styrofoam is not an imaginary problem. My husband and I have spent this spring picking Styrofoam out of Lake Harriet and off the banks of the Minnehaha Creek. We have been shocked to see how it breaks into tiny particles that cannot be picked up. These particles will not dissolve, and probably will be in our lakes for generations. In contrast to a May 20 commentary (“Minneapolis: City of lightweight leaders”), we applaud the Minneapolis City Council for its concern for our lakes and waterways.

Styrofoam is expensive and difficult to recycle. Minneapolis is trying to get residents to recycle cans and bottles; adding Styrofoam would add another enormous expense. Businesses that offer polystyrene cups and containers should be forced to offer and manage the recycling of these containers. Why does government need to be there to pick up the mess of business?


Ban Styrofoam Cups and Containers

42nd day of my litter removal.  Lots of Styrofoam!
42nd day of my litter removal. Lots of Styrofoam!

I am encouraging Minneapolis and other city governments to ban Styrofoam.   The past 42 days I have done daily litter pick-ups on my walks in Minneapolis.  I was picking up Styrofoam along with wrappers, cans and plastic. Some of what was picked-up could be recycled, but Styrofoam, which is recyclable, is hard to find a place to recycle.  I think the Twin Cities area has one place to recycle Styrofoam which is miles from my home.

At an Earth Day pick up along the Minnehaha Creek .  I was surprised to notice how much the Styrofoam along the creek was breaking down into little pieces.  Pieces so small it was impossible to pick up.  Water and sun cause it to break up faster. The past few days I have been picking Styrofoam  out of Lake Harriet. It has broken into pieces that might never dissolve and survive in the lake for generations.  I wonder what harm this does to the birds and fish?

Banning restaurant containers is only a very small piece of this, but it is a start.  The best part of banning Styrofoam could be that it heightens awareness for individuals who never think about the consequences of Styrofoam.

Finally, I have never figured out why businesses that sell products that are so harmful to the environment are not held responsible for what they spew.  Why aren’t they at least required to offer recycling?

“People are already paying a price for allowing this packaging (styrofoam), noting the cost to remove the materials from the recycling stream, uncloging storm drains and picking up litter. You’re paying for it in so many different ways,”  Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson

The Mississippi River, Everyone’s Responsibility!

“Minneapolis, On the banks of the Minnehaha Creek!” Garrison Keillor

Materials for recycling pulled from the banks of the Minnehaha Creek
Materials for recycling pulled from the banks of the Minnehaha Creek

This blog is in response to an article on buffers along streams and rivers:

Water, Our most valuable resource! It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep our rivers, lakes and oceans clean! Living in the City of Lakes, Minneapolis, and the first major city draining streams into the Mississippi River, we take our relationship with water quality seriously. I have an easy way for those lucky enough to live along a stream, river or lake to create sustainable pollinator habitat and keep our waters clean.

The Minnehaha Creek, a few blocks from my home is often part of my walks, bird watching and litter pick up. This Creek runs through south Minneapolis, and flows into the Mississippi River. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul sit on the banks of the Mississippi River which divides them into two cities. Last weekend my neighborhood, boy scouts and high school students did a big clean up of the creek. Every piece of litter we picked up was one more piece kept out of the Mississippi River and possibly the Gulf of Mexico.

It is also important to keep pollutants from running into the creek.  Cleaning storm drains, installing rain barrels, rain gardens, and redirecting drain spouts are initiatives we promote in trying to do our best for the mighty Mississippi.

What is the problem? I was sad to read that some that farmers and others that live along water ways are not following Minnesota law to keep our rivers clean. Minnesota has a state law that requires farmers and others to create small 50 foot buffers of grasses, trees or shrubs along creeks and rivers to keep pollutants from washing into the rivers and lakes.

What can you do? An easy way to create and maintain these buffers is to plant a 50 foot strip of native plants. Why native plants in these buffer zones? Native plants have deep root structures that keep the soil in place and filter contaminants.  Planting buffers of natives would build habitat for our struggling bees and butterflies, and keep our streams and lakes nitrate and phosphorous free. It’s a win-win! Unfortunately, the buffer law isn’t enforced like it should be.  Many don’t like government regulation, well then…. Take responsibility to protect of our water from pollutants.

What are some plants to use? I would recommend seeding the buffer area with native perennials that take care of themselves.  Some of following natives would be great water filters and create bee and butterfly habitat: Golden Alexander, swamp milkweed, Culver’s root, bee balm, little blue stem, cone flowers, vervain, asters, golden rod and any native sedges.  Purchase seeds from   Native plants are almost maintenance free once they start growing. Mowing in the spring, just once a year, would keep out trees.  Good Luck!  (Drainage buffers needed)

Plant Blue Flag Iris and native grasses to filter water run off.
Plant Blue Flag Iris, sedges and native grasses to filter water run off.