Being the Change: Building the movement to protect pollinators

Ecological gardening practices make a difference for pollinators whose populations are declining. Minnesota is home to more than 450 native bee species, plus other pollinators such as butterflies, moths, beetles and native flies. These species play roles in pollinating food crops and native plants. Among the causes of recent years’ accelerated population decline: habitat loss, lack of nutrition, pesticide use and pathogens.

The Lawns to Legumes program aims to empower Minnesota residents to help pollinators in their own yards. Even relatively small plantings of native flowers, or beneficial trees and shrubs, can help create valuable conditions for pollinators and build important habitat corridors.

Introducing pollinator-friendly plants into yards creates mini grocery stores for pollinators, so they don’t have to travel far for food. As the native plants pollinators rely on for food and nesting habitat diminish, those efforts are even more important.

Some of the opportunities to get involved in the Lawns to Legumes program to protect Minnesota’s pollinators follow.

Apply for individual support: Lawns to Legumes provides workshops, free planting guides, and opportunities to apply for reimbursement — enabling Minnesota residents to create pollinator habitat in their yards. Applications for fall 2020 projects will be accepted through June 2. Apply here today.

Plan and implement a project on your own: New to planting habitat? You can start with a few plants — knowing there’s always room to expand. Even if you are waiting to hear whether you have received funding though the Lawns to Legumes program, you can start preparing by removing sod or making more space in perennial gardens. Spring is a great time to separate plants in order to expand plantings or to help neighbors expand their pollinator habitat.

Learn how to tackle your first habitat project: The BWSR Lawns to Legumes website has many resources to help guide those who are ready to tackle new projects. In subsequent blog posts, program staff will share suggestions for establishing and maintaining habitat. Establishing habitat on your own? You are welcome to map your project on the Lawns to Legumes website here.

Coach others: If you are an experienced gardener, consider mentoring your neighbors. Offering to share pollinator-beneficial plants and planting suggestions is a great way to start. An opportunity to become an official “coach” for the Lawns to Legumes program exists. Sign up here to become a coach.

Get involved in local conservation: Minnesota is fortunate to have a wide range of nonprofit organizations that support environmental health. Some of those supporting the Lawns to Legumes program include Metro Blooms/Blue Thumb, the Xerces Society, Monarch Joint Venture, Pollinate Minnesota and the Pollinator Friendly Alliance. If you want to get more involved in conservation for pollinators and other at-risk species, consider becoming a volunteer, advisor or donor. Many of these organizations are valuable sources of planting information.

Sharing publicity and news about the program: Share social media posts about the Lawns to Legumes program to help build awareness about it and the importance of protecting pollinators. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for regular program updates you can share.

About the author: Dan Shaw is BWSR’s senior ecologist and vegetation specialist. Shaw started working in the field of ecology about 25 years ago. Before joining BWSR, he gained experience with restoration companies, native plant nurseries, consulting firms and nonprofit organizations. Over the past 15 years at BWSR, he’s coordinated conservation programs focusing on native vegetation establishment, invasive species management, pollinator habitat, habitat-friendly solar, water management and resiliency to climate change. Shaw has taught ecology courses at the University of Minnesota for the past 18 years. He also has written and illustrated several ecology-focused publications.

The Lawns to Legumes program offers a combination of workshops, planting guides, coaching and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns.



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