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Creating bug-friendly zones in yards, gardens

By Staff | Apr 9, 2016

NATALIA BJORKLUND, second from right, a Nebraska Extension educator, takes time to answer questions regarding how to aid plant pollinators during her April 2 presentation at the Siouxland Garden Show, in Sioux City. From left, Mark and Deb Wilson, of Hinton, and Judy and Bill Boust, of Sioux City, look on. The event was sponsored by Iowa and Nebraska Extension.

SIOUX CITY – Early spring thoughts of a colorful home landscape throughout the growing season are quick to draw the attention of those looking forward to enjoying their time outside.

These thoughts should not, however, leave out those for an abundance of important pollinators that make the color possible.

That was the message shared this past weekend by Natalia Bjorklund, a Nebraska Extension educator, during her presentation April 2 at the annual Siouxland Garden Show, held at the Sioux City Convention Center.

“Getting the right plantings and attractive yard turf also require paying due attention to the important native pollinators that make your landscape attractive,” Bjorklund said. “It’s not that you need to have everything in your garden to have habitat for these pollinators, but you need to have at least some.”

She acknowledged that while it’s difficult in the Midwest to narrow down the numbers, research is ongoing to determine those details in order to protect pollinators.

“We’re all quite familiar of course with butterflies, especially the monarch because it’s vivid and easily seen,” Bjorklund said. “Bees, on the other hand, are less easily identified, as are moths and flies important in pollinating our plants and turf.”

She added that beetles, birds and bats also have a role in pollination.

Bjorklund said aiding these garden helpers is not always an easy task.

“It would be nice if we could fix everything with just one easy answer,” she said. “This, however, is not the case. The plantings (and turf) have a lot of things as a whole working against them. The loss of habitat is probably the No. 1 concern in addition to the improper use of pesticides, disease and climate change.”

For homeowners, she offered suggestions for pollinator-friendly yards and gardens:

A). “Access your current landscape,” she said. “If you’ve a really large area of turf and you’ve been using excessive amounts of pesticides, determine alternatives to replace them.”

B). “You may also want to investigate an alternative ground cover. Determining uses of various areas of your landscape those used for evening walks with the dog or children’s play areas can require different plantings.”

C). “Make sure your landscape has things that are blooming.”

She said homeowners and their families are typically interested in helping pollinators.

“Such interests, especially among children, should be cultivated early on,” Bjorklund said. “The renewed interest in preserving our monarch population serves as but one example. This early interest can be valuable for future monarch populations, and the youngsters themselves.”

Nebraska Extension has a resource, “Protecting Pollinators to Your Landscape,” available online at extension.unl.edu.

It outlines pollinator food, shelter and water needs as well as consideration of the use of few, if any, pesticides.

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