As wild habitat continues to disappear from the landscape, so too do wild pollinators - the native bees, bats, birds, and butterflies that are dependent on this floral diversity to survive and thrive.
This wide-scale decline has triggered alarm for good reason: we need pollinators to eat and live. They are responsible for 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species, according to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Fortunately, concerned citizens are doing something about it. One exciting effort is underway in the Nebraska Sandhills, where the Center for Rural Affairs, the Loup Rivers Scenic Byway and the Loup Basin Resource, Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) are working with landowners to create habitat - and some positive “buzz” - through a network of pollinator gardens.
Participating in the “Pollination = Preservation” project are over a dozen farmers, gardeners, school and community groups along the Scenic Byway - Nebraska Highways 11 and 91 - who are creating a mosaic of bio-diverse, visually appealing gardens certified by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). The Butterfly Byway, as it is known, is still growing, as private landowners make garden plans, plant specific plants, create habitat for beneficial insects and pursue NABA certification.
To certify their garden with NABA, each garden must include native plants useful to pollinators: at least three plants that provide nectar to butterflies and three plants that feed caterpillars. In addition, the gardener must describe a plan to control weeds and pests without harming pollinators, i.e. involving limited and responsible use of pesticides and herbicides.
The Center’s ongoing role is to co-facilitate educational workshops for landowners along the Byway. Curious Sandhills travelers can see examples of pollinator gardens today at Comstock’s Centennial Garden, the Visitor Center in Taylor, the Garfield County Courthouse in Burwell, in Dannebrog and at Calamity Jane’s Steakhouse in Ord.
Feature image: Center for Rural Affairs Program Specialist Kat Shiffler participates in an annual North American Butterfly Association butterfly count at the Calamus Reservoir, Nebraska. Here she caught an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on the shore.
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