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Bright Ideas 2020: Protect the city’s native pollinators by planting wildflowers

Bright Ideas 2020: Protect the city’s native pollinators by planting wildflowers

Nathan Clarke

Nathan Clarke

If we want healthy, happy pollinators in Madison, they need more food. 

Bumblebees, solitary bees, mason bees and other native pollinators do best when the local vegetation is in bloom. The 50,000 honey bees that can live in one beehive need one acre of continually blooming flowers over the course of a year to feed on, for instance. 

But for the past few years, climate change has interrupted the flow of the seasons in Madison, causing plants to bloom later or bloom less than they used to. This past spring rolled around so late that when the city’s gardens and parks finally bloomed, they were devoid of the usual hubbub of insect activity. The insects were just waking up or still asleep. 

It was colder on Halloween than on Christmas this year and the fact that I’m heading into the new year not even wearing a coat are not good signs. Neither were the historic floods and high temperatures of past summers. 

I know what climate change can do to bees. I had to drastically reduce the size of my local honey business Mad Urban Bees in 2018 because of how dramatically the weather had changed. At my business’ peak in 2015, I had 80 hives and produced over 400 gallons of honey. In 2018, I produced only 20 gallons. 

Without enough food, Madison’s pollinators might not survive our current insect apocalypse. Thankfully, anyone in Madison can help feed them. 

Planting a small amount of wildflowers in your yard, on your porch or in an apartment windowsill can go a long way. The more people who do it, the more pollinators will survive and thrive. With enough wildflowers, Madison could become an oasis for pollinators this spring – with beautiful, lush gardens to show for it. 

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