pollinator information

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pollinator information

Globally, more than 80% of flowering plants rely on pollinators to reproduce. By extension, the health of the worldwide ecosystem, food supply, and economy depends on this symbiotic relationship. In other words, without pollinators, humans cannot sustain life on this planet. Concerningly, worldwide pollinator populations have declined sharply over the last few decades. Beekeepers in the United States have lost nearly a third of their colonies every year since 2006. Monarch populations are also dwindling. The USDA has identified multiple stressors contributing to pollinator population decline, including pollutants and toxins, habitat loss, climate instability/climate change, agricultural production intensification, poor pollinator and crop management, nutritional deficits, invasive species and pests, and reduced genetic diversity in pollinators and crops, to name a few. But we are far from helpless in addressing this situation. 

Residents can take several steps to support the pollinator population

Pollinator Gardening Tips
  • Plant native flowering plants. Get a list for your zip code at nwf.org/nativeplants.
  • Reduce the size of your grass lawn and replace it with native blooming plants. Find more tips about creating garden habitats here
  • Attract hummingbirds by planting dense shrubs for nesting and native plants with bright red and orange tubular flowers for food. Supplement as needed with a nectar feeder.
  • Leave standing dead tree trunks, fallen logs, and bare patches of sandy soil. Most native bees are solitary and lay eggs in tiny tunnels in dead trees, fallen branches, hollow stems, or in sandy soil. Alternatively, you can install a bee house filled with nesting tubes.
  • Plant host plants. Butterflies need special “host plants” as food for their caterpillars. Monarchs, for example, rely on milkweed, so planting it will provide essential habitat. Find host plants for butterflies and moths native to your area at nwf.org/nativeplants.
  • Avoid Pesticides. Native plants attract ladybugs, predatory wasps, and other natural enemies of garden pests. These insects are a sign of a healthy garden, and an important food source for birds. No need to spray pesticides. Hand-pick pests if you have an infestation or wash them off with a stream of water from a hose. If you must spray: Only use organic or natural pest deterrents such as soap, garlic and chili pepper; spray only at night, when flowers are not blooming, and when it’s dry and windless; use products that target specific pests rather than broad-spectrum ones; avoid anything labeled as toxic to bees or that kills the “weedy” flowers pollinators visit; specifically avoid garden products that include neonicotinoids; and carefully read and follow application instructions on any spray, using them sparingly. The City of Columbia Heights does not use insecticide sprays or neonicotinoids in any of its management of parks or open spaces. The only insecticide used by the City is to prevent selected ash trees from dying due to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. That chemical is not sprayed, but injected directly into the tree sparingly once every two to three years. 
No Mow May

The City of Columbia recently joined many other communities in Minnesota by participating in “No Mow May,” an effort to protect pollinators. This gives residents permission to refrain from mowing their yards through the month of May in order to protect overwinter habitat and provide early nectar for pollinators such as bees, birds, and beetles. The decision by the City Council applies to all years going forward, so there will be no need to renew the resolution each spring. To read the full resolution, go here. To download a flyer for personal use, go here. For more on mowing best practices, go here. Yard signs are available for purchase from City Hall for $15 during business hours. We order yard signs in batches of 10 or 20 so please call 763-706-3600 to ask about our current stock. 

No_Mow_Yard_Sign_final_logo

Leave the Leaves
According to the National Wildlife Federation, many wildlife species use the fallen leaf layer as their primary habitat, including salamanders, chipmunks, wood frogs, box turtles, toads, shrews, earthworms, millipedes, and thousands of pollinators. Some pollinator species overwinter as eggs, some as pupae, and some as adults. One way to support local pollinators, then, is to leave a leaf layer on portions of your property in the fall, and refrain from raking leaves in spring until daytime temperatures are consistently 50 degrees or higher. You may not want to clear out the leaves at all, since they are a natural mulch. A leaf layer, however, is not good for standard lawn grass, so be sure to clear out leaves in the fall and spring in areas where you want lawn grass to thrive, but consider shrinking the amount of space in your yard dedicated to lawn grass because it's much less helpful to pollinators than native vegetation and flowering plants. The maintenance of lawn grass also requires practices that disrupt pollinators. 

Sustainable Landscape Design
Learn how to grow landscapes to help pollinators(External link), and the basics of planting and maintaining a bee lawn, tips provided by the University of Minnesota Extension Office.

(External link) fmayors' monarch pledge
In 2021, the City of Columbia Heights participated in the Mayors' Monarch Pledge, a national pollinator initiative to help the Monarch butterfly population and other species affected by climate change, diminishing food and habitat spaces, and pesticide use. The National Wildlife Federation encourages communities to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and pollinators and educate residents about how they can make a difference. Columbia Heights renewed its pledge in 2022. Learn more about the initiative here.
  • Volunteers needed. Help with pollinator projects and other activities that support the pledge. To join the Monarch Pledge Volunteer Committee, email monarch@columbiaheightsmn.gov.
  • Flight of the Monarchs film showing. As part of the Mayor's Monarch Pledge initiative, the documentary film Flight of the Butterflies will be shown May 18, 1:30 pm, at the Columbia Heights Senior Center in Murzyn Hall. Attendees will also enjoy a spring salad, provided. Please call 763-706-3730 by May 16 to register for this free event.
  • Monarch Festival returns for its second year! Save the date: Aug 17, 5-8 pm. Sullivan Park.
  • Classes and field trips. Check back here in June for more about classes and events in town relating to pollinators and pollinator support.