Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Bee friendly

Master Gardener Intern


August 2, 2018

Mike Cunningham

A beautiful monarch butterfly emerged from Jack's keeper this past week. The monarch was found as a caterpillar in Tamarack.

It's amazing how important the little things are. Honey bees and other pollinators are responsible for much of the food we eat. Here in Minnesota, many crops including apple, blueberry, cucumber, melon, clover and alfalfa require insect pollination. Worldwide, most of the flowering plant species (almost 90%) rely on animals, as opposed to wind and water, for pollination.

And, according to the Wildlife Habitat Management Institute, of the hundreds of thousands of animal pollinators, all but a few are invertebrates such as flies, beetles, butterflies, wasps, moths and bees.

But ... pollinators are in decline. "For a number of years a complex set of factors has negatively affected domesticated honey bee health and populations in Minnesota, the U.S. and elsewhere. Likewise, the health and numbers of native insect pollinators ... have declined due to a number of factors, including exposure to pathogens, parasites and pesticides, as well as habitat fragmentation and disappearance of floral resources."

Given the pivotal role that pollinators play in the health of our ecosystem, their decline is indeed concerning. One significant thing we can do to help pollinators is to plant for them. The University of Minnesota has created a survey designed to grade the pollinator friendliness of your yard and garden. Follow this link to the five-minute survey: Results come with online information for next steps.

If your action plan includes adding plants, the Minnesota Zoo has identified its top five native plants for pollinators:

• Milkweeds – These are the only caterpillar food plants of Minnesota's struggling State Insect, the Monarch butterfly!  Milkweeds are also a great nectar source for other pollinators.

• Purple Coneflowers – Bright pink, drought tolerant, and attractive to everything!

• Black-eyed Susan – Bright yellow, drought tolerant, and an awesome nectar and pollen source for everything!

• Meadow Blazingstar – This is the preferred plant for Monarch butterflies in late summer and early fall as they load up on energy before migrating to Mexico for the winter.  Tall and rich in nectar, it is also loved by other butterflies and hummingbirds.

• New England Aster – Bright purple flowers make New England Asters one of the most striking plants of fall.  It is loved by almost all pollinators and is a caterpillar host plant for Crescent butterflies.

The University of Minnesota has created a very helpful list of plants that bees will visit. In addition to the scientific and common names of plants, this listing indicates bloom time, sun requirements, whether the plant is native and if the plant will attract honey bees or other bees. Follow this link to the list and a description of bees and their flower preferences.

Interested in learning more? This year, three local master gardeners attended a specialized training course in pollinator education, and they are a wealth of information! Contact the Carlton County Extension Office at (218) 384-3511 with your questions, or stop in for a visit (317 Chestnut Ave. in Carlton) and a fistful of informative brochures on pollinators and what you can do to promote their continued viability.


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