Sustaining Pollinators – Sustaining People
By Elizabeth Fox, Brookings County Chapter Chair, Dakota Rural Action
In Brookings, the local chapter of Dakota Rural Action is working to enhance the sustainability of our environment by protecting our local pollinators. Pollinator populations have seen dramatic downturns over the last few years. In Brookings, our bee populations have had several setbacks causing their numbers to dwindle. We have also seen a decrease in the Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies that come through our area in spring and fall. In addition to these well-known pollinators, Brookings also sees moths, bats, beetles and hummingbirds pollinate our plants.
How can we help our pollinators? First, we need to be careful about what we plant. Both in town and in the country, we can all plant pollinator gardens. Choose plants that are local to the area, have flowers that bloom throughout the summer (this is just good garden planning if you want a pretty garden), that are grown without pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) and that don’t have double blooms which require a longer nose/tongue to get at the nectar. In the country, divide your fields using flowering plants that will provide both food and habitat for native pollinators. When choosing seeds for crops, consider using seeds that are free of neonicotinoids. Try using a flowering ground crop such as clover in vegetable gardens.
In addition to encouraging people to plant beautiful gardens that are attractive to pollinators, the Brookings Chapter of Dakota Rural Action is also putting together a database of seed providers to help farmers find non-neonicotinoid treated seeds. We are also hosting workshops for farmers and for gardeners. We are creating fact sheets for various populations as well.
Ultimately, preserving our pollinators will be good for the humans in Brookings County as well. Pollinators are essential for 80% of flowering plants. Many of our foods come from flowering plants. Without pollinators, there would be no apple pie – what a sad thought that is. Consider putting a few native flowering plants outside your house or apartment next spring. Perhaps include a pollinator hotel which would give a native bee or butterfly a place to rest in between pollinating your pretty flowers. Then enjoy watching the flowers and the pollinators through the summer.
Pollinator trivia: Butterflies of the order Lepidoptera which comes from the Greek “lepido” meaning scale and “pteron” meaning wing. Butterflies have four wings covered in tiny scales.