Karl Foord, Extension Educator - Horticulture
One of the factors in the decline of pollinators is the loss of habitat. To get a sense of this I took the position of a bee looking for forage. I drove my car from my house through my neighborhood in Chaska, Minnesota around the Chaska Middle School out to Hwy 41 and north toward Hwy 5 and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
What I found in this casual survey was a preponderance of turf in the landscape. The homes had most turf surroundings with a few shade trees and low maintenance foundation shrubs. There were a few flowers to accent a rock or a mailbox. Often these plants were not attractive to pollinators such as daylilies. The businesses had turf and accented their signs with rocks and low maintenance plants. The industrial area was completely dominated by turf and shade trees, and contained no cultivated flowers.
The place where I found bee forage was in refuse areas or undeveloped areas. Here I found typical weeds such as thistle (Cirsium spp.), Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota), Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) among others. I also found Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), and Grey-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata). The majority of bees including bumble bees and other natives were working the beebalm and the vervain, predominantly.
Incidently the richest area was the undeveloped area along Hwy 41. I was informed that this was destined to be developed.
As a bee searching for forage this is rather discouraging with the future looking even more bleak. All things considered it still looks like one of the more promising solutions is to follow Dr. Marla Spivak's exhortation to plant flowers and specifically those that provide nectar and pollen to our pollinators.
There are many subtle and complex interactions between plants and their pollinators.
Can our combined urban spaces be designed in such a way as to substitute for the loss of natural areas as we humans continue to expand?
I do not know. However, it is in our best interest to try. As Marla says, "Plant Flowers!".