We are hearing more and more about the declining population of the world’s pollinators – bees and butterflies – but less of what is being done to improve the situation.
Now, a small city in Iowa is dedicating a task force to reversing this issue, one acre at a time.
The town of Cedar Rapids, is devoting 188 acres of native prairie grasses and wildflowers, to the flailing butterfly and bee population – with the aim of extending this sanctuary to 1000 acres.
Scientists believe that the pollinator crisis has been caused be a variety of factors. These include over-use of pesticides, pathogens and other toxins both in the environment, and in our own homes – making their way into our water systems and environments.
Human development is also being linked to the eradication of the pollinator populations, with farms, concrete areas, city development and more, replacing fields of wildflowers and native flora, and destroying key environmental areas.
The initiative has been organised in partnership with the Monarch Research Project and is aimed at restoring monarch butterfly populations – among others.
The project is being spearheaded by Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins, who has proposed the five year plan to repopulate the area, and has thus far secured $180,000 in funding from the state.
“With the agricultural boom around 100 years ago, about 99.9 percent of all the native habitat of Iowa has been lost,” says Gibbins, who is spearheading the project. “When you convert it back to what was originally native Iowa, you’re going to help a lot more than just native pollinators. You’re helping birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals—everything that’s native here relies on native vegetation.”
But while Cedar Rapids is doing their bit to secure the future of their local bee and butterfly populations, we can all do our bit at home to assist our local pollinators.
Stephen Buchmann, a pollination ecologist at the University of Arizona and author of The Reason for Flowers, told Popular Science that we can all assist the dwindling populations in our areas with just a small contribution.
“When creating pollinator gardens, the most important thing is to have a big diversity of wildflowers and heirloom crops that bloom in the spring, summer, and fall,”
Buchmann also urges us to avoid using pesticides and herbicides as well as providing nesting sites for certain bee species.
“People think they’ll just plant the wildflowers and the bees will come,” he says. “And that’s true in some cases, but the smaller the bee is, the less far it can fly. Some can only fly a few hundred meters.” Here is a great resource if you are wanting to learn how to create inviting homes for bees in your area.
The project will aim to reach its 1000 acre target in the next 5 years, but Gibbins says that he hopes the initiative will take root around the country – and then the world, paving the way for a conservation model that can reverse the dwindling pollinator populations.