Take it Easy for Pollinators This Spring!

Take it Easy for Pollinators This Spring!

Signs of spring and warmer weather can be energizing, motivating us to start spring-cleaning our homes inside and out. However, some pollinators are still resting in their winter homes, and cleaning up your lawn too soon can be detrimental to the new generation. For some spring lawn care tips that support pollinators continue reading below!

Pollinators either migrate to warmer climates or go through a phase called “diapause” to survive the harsh winters of Iowa.

Diapause is similar to hibernation in which an insect pauses any development and stays in a kind of suspended animation until conditions are more favorable. There may be many insects in your yard that are still hibernating under leaves or inside flower stems waiting for warmer weather in order to emerge. Rushing to clean up all your leaves and brush now can disturb and damage these pollinators so it is best to leave some “messy” areas in your yard as long as possible. Waiting until the end of May, a time of year when day temperatures consistently reach 50 F (usually), is best. Taking it easy and waiting until later in the spring to tidy up is the easiest way to support pollinators at home!

One specific way to protect pollinators until they emerge is to leave the leaves that have accumulated in your yard. Bumble bee queens especially love to overwinter under layers of leaves as it provides them an insulating layer that protects them from the wind and cold. While you may not want leaves covering your entire yard this spring, leaving the leaves in your garden beds, in particular, can not only protect the pollinators resting there but may also provide you with some composting and weed-suppressing services. Additionally, leaving last year’s flower stems in the garden and not cutting them back until late May will give most stem-nesting bees a chance to emerge as well.

An additional option to support pollinators is to participate in No Mow May, a campaign started by Plantlife in the UK and spearheaded here in the US by Bee City USA, run by the Xerces Society. The goal of No Mow May is to keep your mower in the garage until June and allow floral resources such as dandelions and clover to spring up in your yard providing early pollinators with food resources. Waiting to mow also means the longer grass is able to provide more cover for other insects needing shelter.

While we all want to support pollinators and enjoy them in our yards this year, it can be difficult to allow your lawn to look a bit wilder and to your neighbors, it may look a bit messy. They may not understand that your yard isn’t a mess – it’s a habitat for pollinators! There is much pressure to maintain the traditional, yet outdated, yard of green turf grass containing little to no diversity. To address these concerns we provide the following solutions:

  • Start taking it easy on your backyard
    If your front lawn simply must remain manicured, set aside your back yard to leave the leaves and flower stems and not mow until May. This will still help pollinators and make the pollinator habitat less visible from the street.
  • Create a “Cozy Corner”
    If you can’t put aside your entire back yard, try leaving an unused area in the yard undisturbed. You can create a “cozy corner” for pollinators throughout the coming growing season by leaving the leaf litter there undisturbed and by adding twigs, branches, and other brush to the area as you clean up. This cozy corner can provide shelter for not only insect pollinators, but birds as well! Adding layers of brush to your cozy corner will ensure it serves as an excellent shelter for birds and a fantastic nesting site for pollinators, especially for overwintering. It is also a fun family activity that can be built upon throughout the year!
  • Educate your neighbors
    Let your neighbors know that your yard is providing a specific and important purpose and that it may mean they will be able to enjoy more butterflies and bees in their garden this summer. Here’s a link to free signs created by the Xerces Society you can print out and place in your yard. Spread the word about how you are helping pollinators. Ask others to join you!

There are many ways to support pollinators at home. Many people are starting the fun process of gardening for the foraging needs of pollinators by growing native flowers. However, few people think about the nesting resources that pollinators require. Be mindful with yard clean-up by taking it easy this spring and finding an area to leave undisturbed throughout the year. It will aid in pollinator emergence and provide them with nesting sites. Have a happy and relaxing spring!

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

Update on Status of the Bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa

The bridge over Mud Creek in Tama, Iowa, will be preserved in its current location, in a decision made at the March 21 Tama City Council meeting. City Council member Ann Michael, who had been pushing to repair the bridge, said after the meeting, “It took the work of all of us to preserve this historic little bridge.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered one of the most visited sites along the Lincoln Highway nationally, the Tama Bridge has been cited for repair since 2016. 

Historic Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, Iowa

With the assistance of Prairie Rivers of Iowa, nearly $100 thousand dollars have been raised for that purpose which, along with funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation would have paid for the repairs, but various administrative issues have delayed the project.

Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard at Tama City Council

PRI Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway Coordinator Shellie Orngard speaking in support of the historic Lincoln Highway Bridge to Tama City Council. KCRG Photo

Earlier this year, the Tama City Council began to consider moving the bridge and replacing it with a culvert, sparking a nationwide campaign to contact the Council or attend City Council meetings and ask them to save the bridge and repair it in place.

To gain a full understanding of the options, Tama city staff called a meeting with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) that included representatives from the Iowa Department of Transportation, City of Tama, the structural engineering firm Shuck-Britson, Prairie Rivers of Iowa, and the Lincoln Highway Association. SHPO indicated that moving the bridge without prior approval would cause it to be de-listed from the National Register.

A process to gain such pre-approval could take two years, with no guarantees of re-listing. Additionally, the project engineer cast doubt on the feasibility of moving the concrete structure and maintaining its structural integrity. With this information, and the prodigious input from people across the country, the Tama City Council decided to let bids for repair through the Iowa DOT. City Council members said they were surprised by the amount of interest and the passion for bridge’s preservation from so many people across the country.

Thirteen Earth-Friendly Stops Along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway

During the early 20th century visitors along the Lincoln Highway used travel as a new way to connect with nature while creating new adventures! Today travelers are still making connections with natural, scenic, and recreational opportunities whether it’s during a short day trip or a full drive along  460 miles across 13 counties along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway in Iowa.

For a complete breakdown,  be sure to view and download our Activity and Recreation and Camping Guides!

Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center Aquarium
Recreation and Camping Guide

As you enjoy the outdoors this year, and as we recognize Earth Day later this month, it is a good time to review your outdoor ethic. Please be responsible, protect our natural world, and be considerate of other visitors and the landscape. Remember to always check local regulations and guidelines. Here are some universal outdoor ethics worth following: The 7-Principles.

There are so many grand views to see, hikes to take, fish to catch, bike trails to ride, and nature’s treasures to discover we can’t name them all! Below are thirteen earth-friendly stops along the Lincoln Highway National Heritage Byway you should not miss (one for each county along the Byway)!

3942 291st St, Camanche, IA

  • 8,000-Gallon River Fish Aquarium
  • Wildlife of the River Eco-System
  • Turtle Island Display
  • Giant Cottonwood
  • Iowa State Record Fish Display
  • Touch Tank
  • Riverbank Display
Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center Aquarium

Randy Justis/Boyd Fitzgerald Imaging Solutions Photo

Hound Dog Rock Shop – Cedar County
115 Lombard Street Clarence, IA

  • Collectables From Around the World
  • Minerals, Gems, and Fossils
  • No 2 Stones Alike
  • Efforts Made to Ethically Source
  • Custom Made Jewelry
  • All Ages Welcome
  • Rock On!
Hound Dog Rock Shop

Hound Dog Shop Photo

Mount Trashmore – Linn County
2250 A Street SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  • Former Landfill Transitioned to Recreational Site
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Mountain Biking – Wear a Helmet!
  • Educational tours
  • Picnicking
  • Some Steep Grades
Mount Trashmore Trails

Solid Waste Agency – Cedar Rapids/Linn County Photo

Jumbo Well – Benton County
Commemorative Plaque, Corner of 8th and 8th, Belle Plaine, IA
Exhibit, Belle Plaine Area Museum Henry B. Tippie Annex

  • Known as the Eight Wonder of the World
  • Artesian Well That Ran Loose for Over a Year in 1886
  • Known to “Sing” Until Silenced by Engineers
  • Gushed 3 Million Gallons a Day
  • Took 130 Barrels of Cement to Cap
  • Now an Aquifer Less Than 200 Feet Below Belle Plaine
Jumbo Well Belle Plaine Iowa

Iowa Adventurer Photo

Otter Creek Marsh – Tama County
One Mile NW of Chelsea, IA on E66

  • 1,200-Acre Wetland
  • Viewing Platform
  • Migrating Waterfowl
  • Aquatic Wildlife
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking, Canoeing, Small Boats Allowed
Viewing Platform Otter Creek Marsh

Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan Photo

Marietta Sand Prairie Preserve – Marshall County

1744 Knapp Avenue, Albion, IA

  • Rare Sand Prairie
  • 56 Acres of Sand Prairie Remnant
  • 210 Acre Seep Wetland Addition
  • Wildlife and Flora Viewing
  • Rare Plant Species Unique to Sand Prairies
  • Includes Some Threatened or Endangered Ferns
  • Hunting
Marietta Sand Preserve Volunteers

Iowan Natural Heritage Foundation Photo

Reiman Gardens – Story County

Reiman Gardens
1407 University Blvd., Ames, IA

  • 17 Acre Site
  • Indoor and Outdoor Gardens
  • Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing
  • Lake Helen
  • CoHorts Dancing Chimes Plaza
  • Bald Cypress Allee
  • Hughes Conservatory
Reiman Gardens

Reiman Gardens Photo

Ledges State Park – Boone County

1515 P Ave, Madrid, IA

  • One of Iowa’s Most Historic and Scenic Nature Destinations
  • Sandstone Ledges Above Des Moines River
  • Pea’s Creek “Canyon”
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Streamwalking/Wading
  • Boating
PRI Kids Camp Ledges State Park

Prairie Rivers of Iowa Photo

Raccoon River Valley Trail – Greene County

507 E Lincoln Way, Jefferson, IA

  • Trailhead for 89-Mile Long Multi-Use Recreational Trail
  • Biking, Walking, Hiking, Snowmobiling, Cross Country Skiing
  • Woodland, Prairie, Wildflower and Agricultural Scenic Views
  • Camping, Restrooms, and Shower Facilities
  • 600 Foot Long Trestle Bridge
  • Parking
  • User Permit Required (18 Years and Older)
Raccoon River Valley Trail Trailhead in Jefferson

Raccoon River Valley Trail Association Photo

Swan Lake State Park – Carroll County

22676 Swan Lake Trail, Carroll, IA 

  • Camping
  • Biking, Walking, and Hiking
  • Bird Watching and Wildlife
  • Fishing
  • Boating, Canoeing & Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Horseback Riding
American White Pelican Carroll County Iowa

Matt Wetrich Photo

Yellow Smoke State Park – Crawford County

2237 Yellow Smoke Rd, Denison, IA

  • 358 Acre Recreation Area
  • Biking, Walking, and Hiking
  • Bird Watching and Wildlife
  • Fishing
  • Boating with Concrete Ramp
  • Beach Swimming and Bathhouse
  • Camping
Yellow Smoke Park

Crawford County Conservation Photo

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge – Harrison County

1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley, IA

  • 8,365 Acre Refuge
  • DeSoto Lake (Oxbow Lake)
  • Migratory Bird Corridor
  • Tallgrass Prairie, Bottomland Forest, and Wetland Habitats
  • Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
  • Steamboat Bertrand Archeological Exhibit
  • Rare Glimpse of What Pre-Settlement Iowa Looked Like
Heron at DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge

Troy Hugen Photo

Hitchcock Nature Center – Pottawattamie County

27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, IA 

  • Rare Wind-Deposited Loess Hills
  • Walking, Hiking, Camping
  • Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
  • Seasonal Migrating Raptors and Pollinators
  • Observation Tower
  • Archery Range
Badger Ridge in Loess Hills Harrison County Iowa

Pottawattamie County Conservation Photo

New Pollinator Conservation Specialist Jessica Butters Joins PRI Staff

New Pollinator Conservation Specialist Jessica Butters Joins PRI Staff

Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s new Pollinator Conservation Specialist Jessica Butters’s background includes extensive knowledge about Iowa’s ecosystems and native bee conservation. She’s a graduate of Kansas State University (KSU) with a Master’s of Science in Entomology and recently completed work as a research assistant organizing and analyzing a large dataset concerning native bee presence in soybean in fields.

“We are thrilled to have her join our staff and look forward to some significant contributions towards pollinator and native plant habitat creation, restoration and education throughout Iowa,” says Executive Director Penny Brown Huber.

Jessica has a history of collaboration that will serve her well in this new position. As a part of the team at Kansas State, she has co-authored publications on topics ranging from Providing for Pollinators: Conserving and Integrating Natural Habitats to Native Flowering Border Crops Attract High Pollinator Abundance and Diversity. At KSU she managed two projects that gave her and others a greater understanding of native plant and insect interactions, and landowner viewpoints towards conservation efforts and practices.

Connecting with the public is an area of expertise Jessica honed while serving as an insect zoo tour guide at KSU and as a private tutor where she was able to synthesize scientific information into something simple, fun, and informational to school children and diverse audiences. Central Iowa audiences will get their first taste of her expertise during the Ames Public Library’s Birds, Bees and Pollinators EcoChat on April 28.

Besides being a great presenter, Jessica’s scientific skills are impressive as well. She is just as comfortable while conducting research and analyzing data, creating maps using ArcGIS and R, identifying native pollinators and plants, talking about sustainable agriculture or creating the perfect bee house. They are skillsets that are critical when considering the challenges pollinators currently face in Iowa and beyond.

Please welcome Jessica to the Prairie Rivers team, and “bee” sure to reach out, say hello, and call upon her expertise when you need assistance with your next pollinator garden, native prairie restoration, or educational event.

During the application process, Jessica related, “I believe my research experience, passion for public relations, and solid bee and Iowa ecology background, blend perfectly together for this position.” We could not agree more!

Monarch in Native Prairie
Bumble Bee
Kids On the Byway Program

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