Tired of being known more for their posterior than their true attributes, the bees asked we get their better side. Recent declines in bee numbers, possibly due to pesticides and surely attributable to loss of habitat, have put bees in the forefront of conservation. Bees, as well as many other insects, are critical to pollinate much of the world’s food. Without them, some areas have been relegated to hand-pollinating flowers. Yes, that’s right, people having to physically move pollen to every single flower in hopes of bearing eventual fruit. With millions of flowers blooming simultaneously and flowers only being viable for a matter of hours, the task is unrealistic. We need the pollinators. And we need them in droves.
No matter what the arguments might be leading to pollinator decline, it is obvious that existing habitat, especially native prairie, needs to be kept “green side up”. Additionally, restoration of habitat has to be recognized as a critical avenue for getting pollinators back on track. Whether existing or restored habitat, proper management of those lands is vitally important to ensure grass and forb persistence and vigor. This can include prescribed burning, light disking, or haying, but is most effectively done with grazing livestock, preferably following a prescribed grazing system allowing for proper use and recovery periods.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is promoting technical assistance for forb rich plantings to improve availability of year-long blossoms and ground nesting habitat. Some of these habitat improvements may be cost-shared through the NRCS. Pollinator habitat can be vast fields, narrow corridors, or site-specific. If you are interested in providing pollinator habitat check out the Natural Resources Conservation Service or Xerces Society for information from making bee houses to providing year-round blossoms for bees and other pollinators. For more information contact Curt Bradbury, ND – NRCS – State Biologist