Madison County is encouraging children to start gardening with pollinator plants.
"Without blooming plants to serve as food sources, bees have to fly miles for food and pollen," County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler said.
Prenzler said pollinator-planting focuses on creating landscapes that can strengthen and increase native pollinator populations — bees and butterflies — within the county.
Prenzler said the Madison County Green Schools program provides support, incentives and additional resources for new and ongoing environmental best practices for schools across the county.
“With the current school closures due to COVID-19, Madison County would like to promote the opportunity for hands-on at-home learning about pollinator gardens,” he said.
Baily Lutz, green schools coordinator, said gardening is not only a great opportunity to teach the benefits of pollinators and insects in the environment, it is also a proven stress-relief method.
“As we practice social distancing, spending time outdoors in our gardens provides the opportunity to get in touch with nature and cultivate beauty in our own yard,” Lutz said.
She said in addition to bees and butterflies, other important pollinators include certain types of birds, bats, and many other insects. By planting native pollinator plants such as milkweed and sunflowers in backyards, residents promote a healthy habitat for these pollinators to live and thrive. These pollinators are vital in transporting pollen from one plant to another, which in turn improves the overall environment in Madison County.
There are many factors to consider when planning for a healthy pollinator garden: size of the garden, the amount of light and water available, site elevation and topography, soil type, plant selection, and maintenance requirements. To find out more about these requirements and what might work best, visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/education/Pages/PollinatorsPlants.aspx.
For resources on how to plant a pollinator garden and the importance of pollinators, visit https://www.fws.gov/pollinators/ for downloadable activities, podcasts, and curriculum to help the entire family learn more about pollinators.
Tips for a pollinator garden
Use plant varieties that bloom in both early spring and late fall
Include plants native to Madison County, such as milkweed and sunflowers. They are adapted to the local climate.
Plant in clumps rather than single plants.
Keep away from pesticides whenever possible — if you must spray, spray at night.
Leave the limb — dead trees and limbs provide essential nesting sites for native bees.
Add a nectar resource. Build a hummingbird feeder.
The Madison County Green Schools Program website also features many resources on pollinators and the monarch butterfly, including learning activities and book downloads. The downloadable books are in PDF format, are highly engaging for students, and conform to Next Generation Science standards: https://www.co.madison.il.us/departments/planning_and_development/green_schools_programs.php
Planning and Development Director Chris Doucleff said on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today (April 22), the county is encouraging residents to take action by planting a pollinator garden, starting a compost bin, or by picking up litter in a neighborhood or subdivision. He said to find out about more actions and opportunities to celebrate Earth Day, visit Madison County Sustainability Facebook page @Plan.Grow.Sustain.
Prenzler said although National Pollinator Week isn’t until June 22-28, now is a great time for families to enjoy the outdoors and gardening.
“With kids and families at home, it’s time to go wild and plant for pollinators,” Prenzler said.