Pollinators in the Park

Summer brings warmer days with flowers, butterflies and bumble bees, and evenings made magical by fireflies. Lakeshore State Park provides these simple natural joys right on the shores of Lake Michigan. A new flower blooms or new insect buzzes here every day. Seemingly random, these occurrences are naturally orchestrated. 

The habitat created at the park mimics a short grass prairie with native flowers and grasses with few trees. Native flowers bloom at various times of the season, attracting insects with nectar for sustenance, and the insects in turn pollinate the plants. These symbiotic relationships between the native plants and insects ensure successful reproduction for all involved.

One of the first to flower at the park is Prairie Smoke. Their pink flowers start out facing downwards at a height perfect for awakening bumble bee queens. After pollination, the flowers turn upright and unfurl their feathery blossoms in a smokey display. Next to bloom are Golden Alexanders, attracting tiny native bees which gather nectar and spread pollen plant to plant.. 

Ann Duffy leading a guided hike in the park. Photo by Eddee Daniel

Most bees are solitary, not living in hive colonies like non-native honey bees do. There are over 400 species of bees native to Wisconsin, many which can be found in the park including sweat, mason and leaf cutter bees. Ants, butterflies, and small birds and mammals can be pollinators too, and at night, moths and fireflies pollinate as well!

A concern of late is the decline of insects. Without them, we would have virtually no plants. And without plants, we would lose almost 50% of our food sources. Habitat loss and degradation and the overuse of pesticides are main factors causing dwindling insect populations. The average yard with a monoculture of non-native grass, decorated sparsely with non-native flowers and shrubs, provides little habitat for pollinators. 

What can be done to help? Planting native flowers and grasses in our yards would provide a variety of beautiful, native habitat where native pollinators can thrive. In turn, the pollinators would help the native plants, thus freeing one to spend less time and effort maintaining a yard and more time enjoying the great outdoors!”