Trees Forever hostied what it called a “Creating a Buzz” field tour in eastern Iowa this morning.
Field coordinator Emily Swihart says they’re teaching the public about the needs of pollinators and how to establish high-quality pollinator habitat. They be scouted four sites near Anamosa where prairie plots were planted a few months ago up through several years ago.
“We can see the succession of how they develop and evolve over the course of time,” Swihart says. “You can give participants a feel for what it looks like when you’re trying to plant prairie. It doesn’t look the same every year. It’s a process. We want to make sure people understand what they’re getting into and to have patience and what to look forward to as their plantings develop.”
It takes years to establish a good pollinator habitat and Swihart says if you plant it and forget about it, you’ll have a patch of weeds and invasive plants. Since so much of their natural habitat has been paved over, she says it’s important that we help bees, butterflies and moths as they play a vital role in food production.
“They assist in soybean pollination and with squash, apples, a lot of the fruits and berries that we enjoy are a direct result of pollination that occurs by these little, tiny workers,” Swihart says. “Providing habitat allows them to successfully reproduce, to thrive and continue to do the work for us.” If you can’t devote a large patch of land to restoring prairie, Swihart says anything is better than nothing, and even just a small area of your yard can make a difference.
“Instead of choosing a cultivar of coneflower, you put in native coneflowers. The benefits will go a little farther,” Swihart says. “Putting in milkweed to provide habitat for monarchs. Supplementing some of the horiticultural species with some of the native species can really provide a lot of benefit and it can be two or three plants.”
If an entire neighborhood was dedicated to planting small areas of prairie, it would start to become equivalent to the native landscape. Two more “Creating a Buzz” field tours in Iowa are in the planning stages for the coming weeks.