Friday, December 13, 2013

Roadside Pollinator Gardens and Traffic

Mountain laurel. © Beatriz Moisset
Pollinator gardens are blooming along many highways. Perhaps the idea originated with Lady Bird Johnson and her beautification program. But it goes well beyond that. Planting wildflowers along highways has many advantages besides the esthetic ones. With the growing loss of pollinator habitat, it is a blessing to use the wasteland of roadsides as wildflower gardens to take care of the needs of pollinators.

Butterflies and bumble bees are more abundant where wildflowers bloom than in areas where grasses are dominant and where mowing and pesticide treatments are routine according to many reports. The possible downside is that larger numbers of dead butterflies, and perhaps bumble bees are found along highways with abundant wildflowers. How serious is the problem? Do the benefits outweigh the damages?

Skipper on asters. © Beatriz Moisset
It isn't easy to assess all the aspects of the situation. But the weight of opinion is that the deaths by vehicles are not much higher than those by natural causes. The increase in food supplies and shelter for the pollinators benefits them and contribute to larger populations. So, those who study the matter feel that it is worth to continue creating habitat for pollinators along highways.

Other advantages of such roadside pollinator gardens are a reduction in mowing frequency once the gardens are established and a reduction in pesticide use. Did I mention that the view is also more pleasant to the eye? Perhaps, this improves the mood of the drivers and brings down accident frequency.

Milkweeds. © Beatriz Moisset


Pollinators and Roadsides. Xerces Society. 
Manage your Roadsides for Bees & Butterflies. 
Use of Roadside Prairie Plantings by Native Bees. Iowa State University. 
Roadsides as Habitat for Pollinators: Management to Support Bees and Butterflies. Jennifer L. Hopwood.
A Sticky Situation for Pollinators. Minnesota Conservation.

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