- Animals: bees
- Animal Products: honey
- Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination
This project will hire a University of Minnesota Horticulture student to help us install a two-acre Native Bee/Pollinator Meadow at our 10-acre, non-profit farm. The Bee Meadow will provide a hands-on learning experience for American Indian youth in our programs to learn about pollinators, habitat, and native plants.
In Minnesota, there are approximately 400 species of native bees that provide vital pollination services and are an important component of species diversity. Research suggests that our wild bee populations are also declining due to habitat loss and widespread use of pesticides. Yet these native species are best adapted to the climate and pollination needs of our native plants. Prairie plant communities have co-evolved to provide these resources, but have been displaced to one tenth of a percent of pre-settlement coverage in Minnesota. We are in dire need of restoring prairies to our landscape if we are to avoid the uncertainties of pollinator extinctions and greater ecological collapse. Our project, Native Youth Plant a Bee Meadow, addresses recent declines in pollinator populations with the installation of a Bee Meadow.
Thanks to support from SARE, we have completed the first stage of installation for a 1.7 acre restored mixed height dry prairie. This effort is in response to the drastic population decline of native bees and other pollinators which we are dependent on for the pollination of about one third of our produce. Pollinators are also key to mixing the genetic diversity of many flowering plants which is essential for the resilience of ecosystems in an era of global climate change.
At the back end of our farm, two acres lie directly beneath a large electric utility pole. After leaving these acres in cover crop for several years to help the soil recover from years of conventional farming, we designated this area for the installation of our Bee Meadow. Our land is surrounded by farms using conventional agriculture practices that include regular use of pesticides and very limited pollinator habitat. Our plan included working with Beth Markhart, a senior consultant at Cardno and long-term supporter of the organization, as an advisor on this project, and hiring a recent graduate from the U of M Horticulture school to coordinate the project. The acreage was prepared and planted with native plants that are adapted to local soils and climate. The entire process provided a hands-on learning experience for Native American youth in our programs.
In the 3-5 year process of establishing some 41 species of native flowering plants and 9 species of native grasses, we hope to inspire our youth to take on the calling of ecological restoration. As these native plants establish, we will be using the Bee meadow as a space to teach plant and pollinator identification. We also have the opportunity to learn and teach about the traditional uses of these native prairie plants. We pray for the success of our prairie restoration effort and that it will provide good habitat for our pollinators who contribute to the resilience of Dream of Wild Health.
For our project, Native Youth Plant a Bee Meadow, we planned and implemented a prairie restoration project that covers 1.7 acres. The goals of the restoration efforts include:
- establishing Forbes and grasses that represent pre-settlement plant communities and ecotype of a mesic-dry tall grass prairie of central Minnesota
- providing a diversity of pollen and nectar sources throughout the growing season for native bees, butterflies, moths, flies and wasps
-Provide a range of undisturbed over wintering habitat and nesting sites for pollinators
-Educate youth and the larger community about the decline in native pollinator populations and the implications for agriculture with the loss of native pollinator services