So What Are You Doing About It!

by Trish Beckjord, RLA

It’s Pollinator Month! And I’ve just finally taken the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge posted by the National Pollinator Garden Network and registered my own little garden with in honor of this very important celebration.  My garden is one of 695,591 that have registered so far.  What a great map! 

Look at the gardens that have taken the Million Pollinator Garden challenge. Are you one of these?

We are also right in the middle of Pollinator Week!   In 2012, I took the first steps to create a native garden in my front yard.

The dead grass shows the outline of the native garden to be!

In this image you can see the small corner by the driveway that I had planted with natives (very small!), and the Musclewood (Carpinus carolinana) I had planted the previous fall because I love this tree and it’s fall color when I saw it in the nursery was beautiful!  Musclewood, or Blue Beech as it is also called, also supports a variety of insects, birds and small mammals. Illinois Wildflowers is a good reference.

Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) Close-up of fall color. How can you resist this! A beautiful small native tree in all seasons!

Then I finally took the step! Six years later the garden still a work in progress (aren’t they all?), but one that I am enjoying…

The Musclewood – and the rest of the front yard garden – are all doing well as this early July 2017 photo shows. Rough Blazing Star and Swamp Milkweed are still to come as are the asters.

A snapshot of a portion of the backyard garden now with Foxglove Beardtongue and Sand Coreopsis in bloom. Eastern Beebalm has just finished and Pale Purple Coneflower is about to start. Remember Cues to Care?

Now that the front and back yard gardens are planted, I’ve been thinking for a while that I should take time to create a spreadsheet of the native plants I’ve included and the pollinators they support. So for Pollinator Week, I’ve just created my list. Whoa!  I have more than 75 native wildflower, grass, sedge, tree and shrub species planted in my garden!  Not having kept track over the past 6 years, this is a nice surprise! 

Completing the spreadsheet of the pollinators supported by all these native species though will take a number of hours, too long for this article. But I can tell you that having reviewed only 11 plants in not any particular order, here are the pollinators those species support…

  • Bees: Long-Horned, Sweat, Green Sweat, Cuckoo, Bumble, Mining, Small Resin, Carpenter, Yellow-faced, Cellophane

  • Flies: Bee Flies, Syrphid, Tachinid, Soldier

  • Beetles: Soldier, Banded Long-horned, Wedge-shaped

  • Butterflies: Sulphurs, Skippers, Monarchs, Viceroys, Red Admirals, Swallowtails, Fritallaries, Southern Dogface, Painted Ladies, Common Wood Nymphs

And, within these 11 plant species nine are a host plant (3 are milkweeds), and 5 have specialist bee relationships. What a richness of life!  The reference I’m using is Heather Holm’s book Pollinators of Native Plants. 

Now I know I am not likely to get a Regal Fritillary in my garden even with violets (the larval host food) in my garden. This butterfly’s status in Illinois is State Threatened after all. But they are oh so beautiful!

The Regal Fritillary nectaring on Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

In addition, my garden is the only one around me that provides the range of pollinator support that could be offered to so many of these species. So why should a Fritillary fly across miles of non-habitat to get to my little yard?  The point is, of course, that if more of us got together, my chances of attracting such a beauty would increase as would yours. 

The website Butterflies and Dragonflies of Illinois states there are about 140 butterfly species in Illinois.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us could plant at least a small native garden that when coupled with others of our neighbors would create a more welcoming habitat for these wonderful and important creatures!

If you’d like to add your own little slice of heaven to the count just go to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.  Let’s get to that one million number! Otherwise, I hope reading this post about my own small example will encourage you to do more in your own yard.  We all need to stand up and “bee” counted! 

June view of the Pollinator Garden at The Conservation Foundation’s McDonald Farm.

Some Helpful References

Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Pollinator Partnership

Bee and Pollinator Books by Heather Holm.  Link into her Facebook page for more great information.

Wild About Illinois Moths and Butterflies!

Butterflies and Dragonflies of Illinois

Wisconsin Butterflies  Also a helpful site. After all, butterflies don’t pay attention to state lines! Look for those sighting in southern Wisconsin unless you are travelling up north…

Butterflies and Moths of North America. Here is a link to images of those found in Illinois: Butterflies and Moths: not the most user-friendly site.