Wildflowers are flourishing along roadsides and in meadows all across the county this time of year. I love the look of Queen Anne’s Lace and blue chicory, daisies and day lilies, but their value extends beyond their appearance.
Unfortunately, many see wildflowers as mere weeds and their mission is to eradicate them.
I say it is unfortunate, because when we destroy the habitat and food sources of our most common pollinators: birds, bees, bats, beatles and butterflies, we are hindering nature’s way of insuring that humans also have a food supply.
According to a publication from the United States Department of Agriculture, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to produce.
Approximately one in three bites of the food we eat exists because of pollinators.
Busy bees hovering around our flowers, whether wild or cultivated, aren’t just sipping nectar, they are doing the very important work of spreading pollen.
If they didn’t, plants couldn’t reproduce-and we’d be in trouble.
This year, June 15 through 21 has officially been named “National Pollinator Week.” The United States Senate began observing National Pollinator Week seven years ago when they designated a week in June to addressing the decline of pollinator populations.
Our modern world poses great threats to our pollinators. Clearing of fields and industrial farming practices of spraying crops create the perhaps unintended but harmful circumstance of harming pollinators.
Fortunately, there are some things we can do.
Farmers, it’s okay to leave some areas of your farm un-mown.
That doesn’t make you a bad farmer; it makes you a good farmer. Remember, no pollinators, no crops.
It’s a good idea to spare milkweed, in particular, which grows naturally and plentifully in undeveloped areas of the county. Monarch butterflies, also very important pollinators, cannot survive without milkweed.
If spraying absolutely must be done, do it very early, before 8 a.m., when bees aren’t as active.
Plant dogwood, cherry, willow, plum, and poplar trees, as well as blueberries to provide nectar early in the spring.
Mindful plantings in urban landscapes can provide not only beauty but benefits to pollinators. Some of the best flowering plants to attract butterflies include black-eyed susans, tall phlox, butterfly bush, asters, purple cone flower and verbena. Note that some of these grow wild-another reason not to mow or spray everything.
The United States Department of Agriculture sponsors conservation programs designed to help farmers protect pollinators. A grant issued through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) helps fund pollinator cover by paying for part of the cost of seeding native wildflowers and grasses.
Some landowners throughout Kentucky are already developing field borders in which they sow native grasses such as little bluestem, side-oats grama, and Virginia wild rye.
Wildflowers typically sown in plots or borders include black-eyed susan, purple coneflower, grey-headed coneflower, bergamot, Ohio spiderwort, rigid goldenrod, and varieties of aster.
Sam Miller, with the local Natural Resources Conservation Service office, said in order to apply for the cost share grant, farmers need to be sure they have a farm ID number from the Farm Services Agency in Richmond before they apply.
Miller said the 2015 money has been spent, but applicants can begin applying for 2016 funds. The cost-share pays for 75 percent of seeding costs to establish the plots.
Everything in nature is connected and serves a purpose. We need to pay attention and take good care of the resources the good Lord has given us, so they may continue to take care of us.