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A green-horned bee sits on a bird's foot violet.

As we enter planting season, I encourage everyone to “plant for pollinators!” By planting for our native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, you make your home and community beautiful and attractive to people and wildlife. Planting for pollinators also provides critical habitat for declining, threatened and endangered pollinator species.

Planting for pollinators is simple! First, take a close look at the habitat on your property and be aware of areas you can improve to help support pollinators.

Work to protect flowering plants and important habitat you already have on your property and as well as limiting potential pesticide exposure. Enhance areas that might offer little for pollinators by planting native flowers and flowering trees and shrubs and creating nesting sites for pollinators to take shelter.

In town, pollinator plantings can be in designated landscaped areas, planters and pots on your deck or patio, hanging flower baskets or flowering shrubs and trees. In rural areas, riparian buffer strips, set-aside acres, hedgerows and windbreaks, temporary bee pastures, ponds and ditches, field and road borders, cover crops, water retention basins and garden areas all have the potential to offer possible plantings for pollinators. Every little bit helps!

A few recommended native flower species, with bloom times ranging from early spring through late fall, include pasque flowers, shooting stars, Virginia bluebells, violets, buttercups, wild geranium, columbine, harebell, blazing star, wild bergamot, jewelweed, butterfly milkweed, swamp milkweed, purple prairie clover, pale purple coneflower, ironweed, stiff goldenrod, frost aster, and New England aster.

Trees and shrubs preferred by pollinators include prairie fire crabapples, basswood trees, black cherry trees, apple trees, wild plums, dogwoods, elderberries, nannyberry, serviceberry and buttonbush.

A few wonderful Iowa websites to visit for more information on planting for pollinators include the ISU Extension site at https://naturalresources.extension.iastate.edu/wildlife/landscaping-wildlife, the USDA/NRCS site at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/farmers/, and the Xerces Society website at https://xerces.org/bumblebees.

I hope you “plant for pollinators” this spring and take the time to enjoy and appreciate who buzzes, flutters, floats and zips around you!

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