March 08, 2017
In an effort to give bees the space they need to roam and gather pollen, Cedar Rapids, Iowa is setting aside 1,000 acres of land. During this spring season, at least 188 acres are being seeded with native prairie grasses and wildflower plants, which should prevent invasive weeds while nourishing pollinators. The project has secured $180,000 in funds from the state of Iowa and the Monarch Research Project, an organization dedicated to restoring pollinator habitats.
Instead of converting land use, Cedar Rapids is repurposing public lands that are not being used, such as parks, golf courses, open space near the local airport, and roadways. To repurpose them, 39 species of wildflowers and seven species of grass are being planted to attract pollinators like honeybees and butterflies while keeping weeds at bay. This project, initiated by Daniel Gibbons, a Cedar Rapids park superintendent, will help more than just bees by converting these areas back to their originally states. It will also help birds, amphibians, and reptiles that rely on natural vegetation.
With bee populations having declined over the years, U.S. beekeepers have reported losing over 40 percent of their colonies on average per year. The cause of depleting bee populations includes a combination of pesticides, pests, and extreme temperatures. The more space these insects have, the more they will able to roam and collect pollen without any disturbances. Cedar Rapids is also inspiring locals and other apiarists to make space for honey bees.
Not everyone has 1,000 acres, but there are a few ways around that. Planting wildflowers can be a big help in regards to boosting local bee populations. Stephen Buchmann, a pollination ecologist, suggests planting a diverse mix of plants that bloom throughout the year. Providing a food source for bees is just the first step in protecting them, and creating nesting sites is also essential. The Xerces society has a guide with instructions on how to get used to the idea of having bees on your property and how to help them flourish and rebuild their colonies.
For wood bees, nesting blocks and stumps in sunny areas can help native bees maintain their populations. The nests should be in areas where they are sheltered from extreme weather and stable. If you have an area with plenty of ground, clear vegetation, and gently compact soil surfaces for ground nesting bees. With bumblebees, all you need is a box in an undisturbed site. These little things can have a major impact on bee populations, which hopefully Cedar Rapids and other cities will notice before too long.
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