Pollinators are important to the future

The butterfly garden, located at the former prairie dog exhibit on Lake Avenue in Fairmont, is filled with plants for pollinators such as butterflies and bees. The garden is maintained by the Fairmont Exchange Club.

The “save the bees” movement has been fairly popular over the last few years. While many people have mixed feeling about bees, it’s undeniable that they are important little creatures.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, pollinators play a critical role in keeping the environment healthy. They help maintain the health of the many plants that stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. These plants also buffer waterways, store carbon and provide habitat for other wildlife.

“Pollinators are so important, not just to flowers but to our whole environment and there are many simple things Minnesotans can do to help pollinators,” said DNR invertebrate ecologist, Jessica Petersen.

A few tips to help pollinators:

— Plant a variety of flowers, especially native ones.

— Keep gardens blooming all season long. Choose plants that provide pollen and nectar in the spring, summer and fall.

— Reduce pesticide use.

Michael Taylor, a resident of Truman and Master Gardener through the University of Minnesota Extension Program, agreed that bees are important and said “They’re not just out there to irritate us or make honey, they’re out there pollinating flowers.”

While some people are afraid of bees or allergic to bee stings, Taylor said if they’re not bothering you, it’s best to just leave them alone.

Taylor agreed that plants are important for bees and vice versa. He stressed that people need to be considerate about how they maintain their lawns when it comes to weed control products and that some are more mild than others, so people should research options before purchasing or using one.

“Before you go spraying anything, read the label. If it kills bees or pollinators, it will say right on there. Be responsible and read the label,” Taylor said.

Taylor said if you live in town, you should be courteous and ask your neighbors if they have something in their yard they don’t want killed. Taylor said he had a tomato plant in his backyard that was killed by his neighbor spraying weed killer because the spray can carry over.

When asked what Taylor does to keep weeds out of his garden and lawn, he said he just pulls them when he sees them.

“I use an old fashioned method that’s called hands and knees,” Taylor said, laughing, adding that he uses a hoe as well.

While weeds aren’t good for anything, Taylor said he has a lot of white clover in his yard that he said sweat bees, solitary bees and butterflies like. He said he mows over it but lets it come back up.

“Bees don’t mess with weeds unless there’s a flower on it,” Taylor said. He suggested people should either pull or spray weeds before they start flowering. Once they flower, he said people shouldn’t spray on them.

Aside from helping to keep the environment healthy, bees help make food, aside from just honey.

Taylor said around here, honey bees are on a really big decline, but there’s more of a market in raising the bees and shipping them to California.

“Almonds that we eat are only pollinated by honey bees, and California is the only state that raises almonds. All of the bees that people raise around here, it’s a better market if they ship them out to California in the winter time so they’re ready for the spring almond season,” Taylor explained.

“Some people keep them around here and that’s good. But the habitat for them around here is declining,” Taylor said, adding that bees around here will mainly pollinate the apple trees, which is also important.

A list of pollinator resources is available on the DNR website, www.dnr.state.mn.us.