June is National Pollinators Month and highlights the importance of the relationship between pollinators and plants. Many insects and animals are pollinators and transfer pollen from one plant to another. This pollen transfer is crucial as it leads to plants being able to produce fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Pollination is a vital process allowing humans and wildlife get their food resources, which means it is our responsibility to help protect these species. Here is what some Linn County departments are doing to help protect our native pollinators:
Managing pollinator habitat is a common land management practice with Linn County Conservation. Over 713 acres of pollinator prairie mix has been planted on Linn County Conservation areas since 2017, thanks in part to the regional collaboration with Monarch Research. Conservation continues to plant pollinator mix every year in areas that are converted from brome grass or newly acquired areas, as well as within savannas or part of a restoration projects that promote habitat diversity. Linn County Conservation was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for pollinator restoration work intended to benefit the Federally endangered Rusty Patch Bumble Bee as well as additional native pollinators.
In addition to planting pollinators, Conservation also manages these areas by doing prescribed burns on a rotational basis. Prescribed burns are beneficial in many ways including:
- Removing the excess leaf litter and duff allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller
- Suppressing many weeds and non-native invasive cool season grass like brome and reeds canary grass
- Damaging or killing many woody invasive plants such as bush honey suckle and autumn olive, which, if left unchecked, can quickly overtake a prairie
- Maintaining natural habitats that some rare species rely on for survival, such as several species of butterflies and reptiles
The Linn County Secondary Road Department uses the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management (IRVM) approach to right-of-way maintenance. IRVM practices can benefit pollinators by promoting the use of hardy and adapted native grasses and wildflowers in combination with practices, which include, mowing, burning, and spotted treatment of herbicide to control weeds.
Flowering plants along the roadsides are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies, that either spend their entire life within the roadside or those that reproduce and winter in other areas. The best roadsides for pollinators include a diversity of native flowers with a succession of bloom thorough the growing season. Because of the extensive root system of native vegetation, the plants help to improve water quality and provided an excellent form of erosion control benefits.
What You Can Do
You can help protect and create habitats for pollinators by protecting milkweed and native wildflowers where they are currently growing, or by planning flower-rich habitat that contains milkweed. You can create this habitat in a pot and place it on your balcony or outside your home. You can also plant this habitat as a garden at schools, parks, or business campuses in your community. Increasing native pollinator plantings in local communities is vital for maintaining the production of needed food resources.