It's Endangered Species Day! Why not celebrate by adding a small piece of habitat to your yard in the form of a native plant garden? The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, an endangered species found in the metro area, would benefit from the addition.
The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was added to the Federal Endangered Species List in 2017 and can be found in Apple Valley. While there are many contributing factors to the decline of this once common bumblebee, habitat loss is thought to be one of the potential critical factors in the decline of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. That's where you come in. Habitat for bees generally means providing a food source throughout the growing season (flowering plants from May through October), free of pesticides, with adequate nesting sites. Sound like a tall order? Not so. You can accomplish all that with a new native plant garden. This could be the easiest, most enjoyable bit of conservation work you will ever do. And you can accomplish it in your yard while adding some fabulous curb appeal. And did we mention grants? Yes, you may be able to get part of your new garden paid for. More on that below.
Why native plants? Setting aside some of the side benefits, like they're gorgeous, native plants are the plants that these bees have evolved with over time. For that reason, we know that native plants will provide adequate nutrition for these bees throughout the season. Additionally, most native plants sold by growers who specialize in native plants are grown without the use of pesticides, so we know they are relatively safe (beware of native plants sold from large commercial growers that don't specialize in native plants or big box stores - only buy plants that are neonicotinoid-free if pollinator conservation is your goal). On top of all that, you could be helping out other animals that rely on specific native plants to survive (think Monarch Butterflies and Milkweeds, or the Karner Blue Butterfly and Wild Blue Lupine). See a list of Rust Patched Bumble Bee superfoods.
If you think that purchasing native plants might be a little daunting, rest easy. While most native plant suppliers are located on the outskirts of the metro, making them a bit of a drive to get to, many will deliver to your house for a modest fee, some sell at some of the farmers markets, and others have regular drop off locations located throughout the metro. Prices can be very reasonable with some growers charging less per plant the more plants you buy. There will also be some upcoming opportunities to purchase native plants from several growers at these metro area native plant sales:
Now about those grants, the City of Apple Valley and the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) have grant programs that seek to encourage installation of certain specialized types of gardens because they benefit water quality. Native plant gardens are one of those specialized garden projects (raingardens and native plant buffers being the others). Native plants are great for water quality because they reduce runoff by increasing infiltration, filter pollutants from stormwater, and require less chemical inputs and watering. So not only would addition of a new native plant garden to your yard help the bees, it would also help improve water quality in local lakes.
There is more help available if you are interesting in installing a native garden in your yard. The SWCD offers a series of workshops on Landscaping for Clean Water (attendance is mandatory to qualify for their grants). After attending an introductory workshop, you can sign up for a design workshop to help you plan for your new garden. The design workshop has lots of local experts in attendance to give you lots of one on one help with your project. If you qualify for a grant from the SWCD, they will also come to your yard and help you layout your new garden. There are only two more opportunities to attend a Landscaping for Clean Water Workshop this year, so be sure to use the link below to sign up if you are interested.
Let's get planting and help out the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee with a new native plant garden today.