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Attract Pollinators with Local Wildflowers

Posted by Jeff Allen

Attract Pollinators with Local Wildflowers

All the ‘buzz’ around wildflowers in recent year has caught suppliers across the United States by surprise, causing a bit of a wildflower shortage. As more and more people started to notice a lack of our little winged insect friends buzzing about in our yards at barbecues and in the parks, “what does it mean?” began to creep into the minds of, not just those in agriculture, but in the everyday person; missing the Monarch Butterflies they used to see each summer as children. 

The push to “Save the Bees” has driven the cost of a typical Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) up $35-55 to $100 an acre. We saw a great increase in calls and requests for information and seed mixes to increase pollinator in the last few years. Research and entomologist recommendations helped us create two new blends (Monarch Butterfly & Honeybee Mix and Bonnie’s Butterfly & Bee Mix) including flowers that bloomed at different times through the spring, summer, and fall, and produce pollen and nectar essential to providing and sustaining honey bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds (we don’t see as many of those as we used to either). 

Many worldwide companies have jumped on the flower-wagon, promoting their exchanging a field of moneymaking ground to flowers, creating campaigns to raise awareness. Recently Honey Nut Cheerios’ manufacture, General Mills Inc., gave away billions of wildflower seeds in their #BringBackTheBees promotion. Pledging to give away 100 million wildflower seeds when they removed the iconic ‘BuzzBee’ from the box in March, the response was immediate and within one week they had received requests for 1.5 billion seeds from people all over the United States. The promotion was extended after good results last year when it was released in Canada. 

The hiccup? The company sourced the wildflower mix from a company based in Canada and while the mix does by all appearances meet the needs of bees and butterflies, some are ‘weeds’. Now, no need to panic, not all ‘weeds’ are created equal. A weed is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth, especially: one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.” What makes wildflowers wild, are that they grow in natural places without being planted by people. Narrowing down the difference between wild and weeds isn’t the easiest thing. Depends on where it is growing: The USDA has a page on their website have a breakdown noxious weeds by state and below that there is a list organized by plant species. The companies claim: “in most locations, the seed mixture species will be non-native but not considered invasive”. Invasive or not, back in the day if you wanted more flowers in your yard or acreage you went to your local supplier, who offered seed native to your area. The buy-it-online world we live in today makes it easy to procure seeds from different retailers in different states with a click of a button. 

The closest we can get to restoring bee and butterfly habitats by planting forbs and legumes, is by planting wildflowers native to our area. Local wildflowers are already adapted to the climate, soil type and insect population, and the wildlife and insect population are adapted to them. Many insects and plants have pre-existing symbiotic relationships. Think Nemo and the anemone. Noxious introduced plants can over run native ones, disrupting existing ecosystems; much like drought tolerant/heat loving weeds taking over your lawn in the heat of summer, after you neglect watering for several weeks. 

The Cheerios promotion merely gives us the opportunity to shine a light on the difference between native and introduced seed, and encourage you to seek direction from your local greenhouse, NRCS office, conservation district, or a Sharp Bros. Seed dealer for help determining what flowering plants are best suited to bring back the bees and butterflies to your area. 

 What's important when you purchase WILDFLOWERS? 

  • Be Informed
  • Buy Local

There are a lot of factors contributing to the decline in bee and butterfly populations, we encourage you to research and learn more about pollinators in your area.