I am at the Minnesota State Fair talking to individuals about rain gardens and native deep-rooted plants. Native plants help absorb pollutants, keep rain water in our yards, save on watering, and are loved by bees, butterflies and birds.
Plant deep-rooted plants for pollinators and clean water.
This past week my yard was part of a “Pollinator Garden Walk” led by my neighbor, a pollinator expert. We walked, biked, or carpooled to 4 neighborhood yards. All the yards had boulevard plantings, two had no turf grass,, and three yards had rain gardens. We observed lots of bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and caterpillars. Below are the ideas to attract pollinators suggested by the pollinator expert:
* Choose native and single-flowered plant varieties
* Go organic, eliminate pesticide and herbicides
* Leave areas of bare ground or loose leaf litter
* Plant milkweed
*Install a bee nesting house for mason bees and other stem-nesting bees
I would add: Plant with diversity of flowers, bloom times, and colors.
Never use plants treated with neonicotinoids! Ask before purchase of plants.
The luna moth grows to a wingspan of four and a half inches.
Credit: David Moskowitz
What do you know about moths? They are not the “Ick” insect you might of thought of as a child. Because most, not all, are nocturnal we might not experience them except caught in a window or spider web. The best ones I have seen are in the bathrooms of campgrounds, and they are magnificent! This is National Moth Week, so what better time to get out and see if you can find and observe a moth. This information is from http://www.livescience.com/
Seven facts about moths:
1.There are more than 11,000 species of moths in the U.S. alone.
Moths outnumber butterflies, their nearest relative, by more than 10 to 1, said Matthew Shepherd, communications director and senior conservation associate at the Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization focused on insect conservation in Portland, Ore. There are upward of 11,000 moth species in the United States alone — that’s more than all the bird and mammal species in North America combined.
2. Moths make great mimics.
Moths are notorious for their ability to camouflage to keep from being eaten.
3. Moths are important pollinators.
4. Many adult moths don’t eat.
While some moths suck nectar, others don’t eat at all. The adult Luna moth, for instance, doesn’t even have a mouth. After it emerges from its cocoon, it lives for about a week. Its sole mission in life? To mate and lay eggs
The luna moth grows to a wingspan of four and a half inches.
Credit: David Moskowitz
5. A male moth can smell a female more than 7 miles away.
Though they lack noses, moths are expert sniffers. They detect odor molecules using their antennae instead of through nostrils. Male giant silkworm moths have elaborate, feather-shaped antennae with hairlike scent receptors that allow them to detect a single molecule of a female moth’s sex hormone from 7 miles (11 kilometers) away.
6. They are important food for many animals.
Because of their abundance, moths are major players at the bottom of the food chain.
7. Moths: The next superfood?
In some places in the world they eat moth caterpillars. They are high in fat and protein.
Today my yard is teaming with pollinators. The bees are in abundance, house finch and hummingbirds are loving the fresh blooming plants, and I am thrilled. Butterflies have been slow to appear, but today I had a giant swallowtail, several red admirals, a painted lady, and a monarch!
The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke
Bee balm, cone flowers, and milkweed will bring butterflies, bees and butterflies.
When I see the mowing down native plants pollinators I get angry. My husband and I have just completed a driving loop from Minneapolis to Chicago and back through Iowa. We have traveled Interstate East 94, West Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 North. The entire road trip I surveyed the status of mowing and blooming plants. The shoulders of most of the interstates are not over-mowed, but they are mowing the center median which doesn’t make sense? The best plants can grow in the median if allowed to survive. Some farmers are mowing along the interstates and they do get a little extreme with their mowers. Educating, educating and educating is what we need to continue to do, and it does make a difference. Below is a sample letter I sent to my rural town road crew. I hope you can modify it and send to your local and state government.
Dear local government road crew,
Pollinators, (bees, butterflies and birds) are in trouble in the United States. They have faced serious habitat loss. Last year and the past few years their numbers seemed smaller compared to the years before. Bees and butterflies need the nectar and pollen from flowers for their survival. The Obama Administration is working to plant pollinator plants along our interstate highways to improve bird, bee and butterfly habitat. The plants along the roadways in our town are a natural habitat for birds, butterflies and bees. Now as the daisies, lupine and other wild plants bloom we have beautiful roadways for residents and food for butterflies and bees.
I am writing to ask you to not mow the entire right-a-way along our town roads until maybe late August or even better would be September. I know you need to mow for safety, and that is important. Could you please not mow every flower down until early fall? Maybe mow just a strip along the roads leaving plant food for our pollinators. The bees, butterflies, birds and humans would thank you for the needed nectar, and fabulous summer beauty.
If I can get a commitment from you to mow a little later, I will spread milkweed seeds along the town roads creating more butterfly and bee habitat.
Wisconsin energy co-ops to create monarch butterfly habitat
It’s raining this week where I live. How can we use all this water rushing into the storm drains and at the same time improve the quality of the water runs from our roofs, sidewalks, driveways and streets? This water picks up many pollutants as it races to our lakes and rivers. There are things we can do to lessen this pollution such as sweeping our driveways and sidewalks and not using chemicals on our lawns. A good way to clean this polluted run-off is to direct the water into a garden, a rain garden. Today as it rains I can see the water rush into my rain gardens where my deep-rooted plants help clean this water as it drains into the earth below. This past week I have been part of a team that installed two rain gardens. Both gardens captured water that would run into the Mississippi River. We had fun, and were thrilled we helped to “plant for clean water.”
What is a rain garden?
The water that runs off our houses sidewalks, driveways and streets contains pollutants that run directly into our streams and lakes. A rain garden captures this water and the plants in the garden actually purify the water filtering out the pollutants. Like a friend said, “It’s like magic!”
An aspect of climate change is we can go for months without any precipitation then watch out…. inundation, too much rain. Rain gardens are a valuable tool to use and manage the water that falls on our properties. The plants should not need to be watered so we conserve water
Advantages of rain gardens:
1. They conserve water by managing rainfall
2. Rain gardens filter out pollutants
3. Blooming plants add beauty to your yard
4. Rain gardens often use native plants that bees, birds and butterflies love.
Simple steps to creating a rain garden:
1. Remove the sod and dig a hole. It must be at least 10 feet from your house and where you can direct a drain-spout, driveway or sidewalk to drain rain water. Most rain garden holes are about 12 inches deep with wide 3 feet slanted sides surrounding the garden. The bottom of the garden should be flat.
2. Mix in about one inch of compost to the bottom and sides of your new garden
3. Cover the garden with a layer of several inches of double or triple shredded mulch.
4. Plant deep-rooted plants. Most of the plants you love will work matching the degree of sun and shade. Also, always work to have a variety of plants that bloom at different times for the bees and butterflies.The bottom plants need to be water tolerant. Some bottom plants I have used are: liatris, swamp milkweed, turtlehead, Culver’s root, blue flag iris, sensitive fern, cardinal-flower, blue lobelia and many kinds of sedges.
5.. Water–If it is dry, you need to water the new plants for the first couple of months.
Each of us is so unaware of the damage we are doing to our earth. This week I was at a seminar on pollinators. Minnesota has lost two of its native butterflies, the Dakota Skipper and Poweshiek Skippering. and many more bees and butterflies are declining in numbers. Also, I was surprised so many people don’t know about neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are harmful systemic pesticides that weaken pollinators
Why is there is so much buzz about bees during the winter? The United Nations announced that we are loosing many of our important pollinators that are vital to the pollination of many important food crops.
What is causing this loss? The major reasons we are loosing species of native butterflies, bees and birds is because of mono-crop planting, habitat loss, and our obsession with pesticides. The combination of these three is making it hard for pollinators to survive.
Even a small yard can make a difference for pollinators. First, add more native plants to your yard, they don’t need chemicals. Plant for different bloom times, diverse flowers, and never purchase a plant treated with neonicotinoids ! Be careful and read directions with any chemicals you use on your yard….Try to go without! Finally, bees and butterflies love blooming dandelions and clover…Let them bloom, then weed them out!