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8 Ways to Save the Pollinators

8 Ways to Save the Pollinators

In an unlikely paradox, our neighbor hayed our field during national pollinator week. I don’t know if I was the only one conflicted or not, but I totally was. Our fields are full of clover, wildflowers, and healthy grasses, so it’s no surprise that every year he comes to hay. We get a good chunk of money from him, which is great, but this year I seriously considered asking him not to hay because all the clover, wildflowers, and milkweed provide a pathway for pollinators…and then I felt like that was a crazy thing to ask, so I didn’t…and I’m still conflicted about it.

A bit about ecosystems and farming

We have 40 acres of land and people often ask if we are going to run cattle on it. And while I maybe want a cow or two eventually, that’s not my primary goal. What I really want is to create a conservation-type area for pollinators, wildlife, and like, human life. Because we can’t live without the benefits these ecosystems provide, yet we’re sitting by while they’re destroyed. Not to be dramatic or anything, but if our ecosystems die, we die. Disclaimer: I don’t know a lot about earth science, I’m not zero-waste, and I don’t even recycle. I obviously have tons of room for improvement but wanted to share what I’ve been learning. 

An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and leandscape, work together to form a bubble of life.

Fun fact: More than 95% of all tallgrass prairies have been eliminated because we’ve turned the prairies into farmland (source) Thankfully, 40% of the shortgrass prairies remain, but that’s only because the land is too dry for non-irrigated farming. Just FYI, our lawns are not enough to support oxygen for humans…or wildlife. And while I believe the farming industry started with good intentions, it’s just a mess now, but that’s a totally different series of posts.

Everyone is freaking out about the rainforest (and they should be), but we’ve been completely silent on the damage commercial farming has caused the ecosystems in our backyards…like you guys, 95% OF OUR PRAIRIES ARE GONE.

Only .1% of the prairies in Iowa exist and here in Missouri, only .5% of the native prairie exists. Though there are 17 million acres of technical “grassland”, native grasses have been pushed out and are nearly extinct because the prairies were seeded with grass beneficial to feeding cattle. Oh, and we grow a lot of corn.

If we don’t have prairies then we don’t have as many pollinators. This is my artsy interpretation of it–basically, without them we’d be dead…or less alive. Because ” a world without pollinators is a world without plants” (source)

8 ways to save pollinators

8 Ways to Save the Pollinators (and in the process help our ecosystems)

Here are a few ways we can all start to help the pollinators:

  1. Plant native plants and wildflowers. I love using American Meadows for all of my wildflower seed (not affiliated, just love them). Check out their page here to find native wildflowers for your area. Make sure there is something in bloom each season (spring, summer, fall). Oh, and the seeds at American Meadows are GMO-free and neonicotinoid-free. Speaking of neonicotinoids:
  2. Check your plants for neonicotinoids before you buy them. Neonicotinoids are an insecticide that has been bred into your plants and flowers. A lot of plants at big box stores will have plants that say they are “protected” by neonicotinoids. The neonicotinoids essentially “protect” (please read as INFECT) the entire plant, including the pollen and nectar. They are considered “less hazardous” to humans and other small mammals, but as an insecticide, it will kill your pollinators. Don’t buy them.
  3. Make a bee house for non-honeybees: because guess what? Honeybees aren’t the only bees that pollinate things. So if you don’t want to keep bees? Guess what? Just make a bee house!
  4. Don’t use pesticides. Just stop. And before you come at me with ‘you can’t grow good food without pesticides’, let’s just all sit for a moment and think about how the h* people used to farm before pesticides.
  5. Use heirloom seeds when planting your garden. Don’t plant GMO seeds. Baker Creek is a great place to get heirloom seeds and they have an amazing assortment.
  6. Plant host plants for butterflies. You can check out a list of host plants here. But also, plant a lot of milkweed for the monarchs, plus, all the butterflies love them.
  7. Support local farmers and growers because chances are, they aren’t using millions of acres of former prairie to farm corn, cattle, and soy. Instead, they are likely farming sustainably in a way that helps the earth and our pollinators.
  8. Plant a wildlife garden in place of a yard. I mean, you can still have a yard, maybe, depending on the size of your lot. But sod requires more water than native/perennial/drought tolerant plants, nor does it provide the pollinators with food or shelter. Plant native shurbs for nesting birds. More info here. 

"To do list: hug trees, plant seeds, save the butterflies, and the bees" Modern poetry by Alisha @folkandco

What are some other ways to save the pollinators? Comment below!

 

 

Sources

8 ways to save the pollinators

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. -Emily Dickinson

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4 thoughts on “8 Ways to Save the Pollinators”

  • This is such a fantastic article! Of course, now I’ve gone a purchased an entire basket work of seeds to sprinkle around my garden from this fabulous website. I love the idea of planting native species and I think you’ve done a fabulous job of outlining why we ought to! xx

  • I love how you want to just leave. the. prairie. alone. I think that’s awesome.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with cattle farming, but I think the way it’s done (& how much it’s done) today is pretty messed up. for the reasons you’ve outlined in this post & also because it’s poisoning the population, & is most of the time inhumane. have you read any of Joel Salatin’s stuff? he’s all about doing it sustainably & in a way that actually heals the land. he calls himself a grass farmer, because that’s what his entire operation is centered around. he’s pretty dang cool.
    also, it’s crazy (terrifying) that farmers grow mass amounts of corn because the government subsidizes it (with our tax dollars – yipee!). so then the gov has loads & loads of gmo corn & puts it in literally EVERYTHING.
    this stuff gets me fired up, man!!

    • Hi Clare!! I agree–cattle farming isn’t inherently bad, but the way it’s being done isn’t benefitting the ecosystem–wild horses are rounded up and slaughtered to make room for cows, the prairies are seeded with feed rather than native plants, etc. And I have read Joel Salatin! I actually have one of his books I only half finished haha. But he makes some seriously great points. Like the corn!! We have way too much and it goes to waste, or like you said, they put it in EVERYTHING. Few things make me angry, but that’s one of them!

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