‘Pollinator friendly’ Stillwater

Stillwater recently became the fourth city in Minnesota to become "pollinator friendly."
Stillwater recently became the fourth city in Minnesota to become “pollinator friendly.”

Stillwater has become the fourth “pollinator-friendly city” in Minnesota, according to the Pollinator Friendly Alliance.

Stillwater joins the cities of Lake Elmo, Shorewood and St. Louis Park, which have all approved resolutions to be pollinator friendly.

“This resolution is a huge win for our community and now we can work in partnership with the city of Stillwater to plan pollinator gardens and forage areas without neonic pesticides,” Marcie Forsberg, co-president of the alliance, said in a written statement. “This is not the whole answer, but we have to begin on a community level, because this is a cause where every person can make a difference.”

Formed the summer of 2014 in Stillwater, the Pollinator Friendly Alliance works to protect pollinators through education, habitat creation and removal of harmful pesticides.

Last September, the alliance made a presentation before the Stillwater City Council, asking it to commit to being pollinator friendly.

The alliance and its expert partners at the University of Minnesota and Pesticide Action Network told the council that declining habitat and certain pesticides are harming pollinators, such as honeybees and butterflies, which are critical to the food supply and environment.

According to the alliance, pollinators are responsible for about 30 percent of our food supply.

Laurie Schneider, beekeeper and co-president of the alliance, has observed the decline in pollinators first hand.

“Fifteen years ago these problems did not exist with our colonies,” Schneider said in a written statement. “Year after year native bees, bumblebees and honeybees would fill our giant Basswood tree at blossom time, creating a hum so strong the vibration made me feel like I could take off with the tree and the bees. Now I have to look hard to find a pollinator on the blossoms, and my hives are lucky if they make it over winter.”

One of the problems identified is the use of certain types of “systemic” pesticides, such as neonicotinoid and fipronil pesticides. When these are introduced to a plant, they spread throughout the stem, the leaves, the fruit and the seeds, Schneider said. The pesticides kill the pollinators needed for a healthy environment and food sources.

Schneider said being pollinator friendly means “abiding by pollinator-friendly principles and practices,” which include planting only pollinator-friendly plants, using an “integrated pest management system,” providing public education about pollinator decline and health, and discontinuing use of neonicotinoid and fipronil pesticides.

Stillwater has now committed to “consider safe alternatives to pollinator-harming pesticides” and “consider the use of plants or plant seeds that have not been treated with neonicotinoids in its new plantings.” It will also seek to plant pollinator-friendly plants and support public education about the importance of pollinator-friendly practices.

Schneider said the alliance has plans to create pollinator habitat in Stillwater, in partnership with the city.

“We’ve already put together pollinator garden plans,” she said. “As soon as the weather is good enough to accommodate planting, we’ll be planting those pollinator areas.”

The gardens will include pollinator-friendly plants such as milkweed and will be located in Pioneer Park, Triangle Park and others.

“A pollinator-friendly plant is a flower, plant shrub or tree that is not grown or treated with a systemic insecticide,” Schneider said. “The second piece … is the plant provides either pollen or nectar or both, and the pollinator can get to it.”

In addition to the gardens, the group plans to add“bee lawns” in some bare areas throughout the city.

“We’re going to be using a lot of white Dutch clover, and that’s great pollinator forage,” Schneider said. “It’s beautiful, and it’s low to the ground, and you only mow it once a year.”

Although the city isn’t allocating additional funds for the pollinator friendly initiative, Schneider said the money already designated for plants in the parks in question will go toward pollinator-friendly plants. Volunteers will do the labor of creating the gardens.

The alliance is also seeking businesses and organizations to sponsor the gardens. So far the planned gardens are expected to cost a total of about $5,000, but the group would like to identify even more sites.

Schneider hopes the community will get involved. Toward that end, her organization will continue to provide educational events.

“We’ve been doing talks and awareness events since last fall, and they are always well attended,” she said. “Once people learn about what’s happening and what they can do, they’re all about doing it. … We can do a lot in our own backyards.”

The group’s next big event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13, at Lift Bridge Brewing Co. in Stillwater. In addition to pollinator-awareness components, it will include celebrity guests, a specially brewed beer with honey, food vendors, bands and more.

For more information on the Pollinator Friendly Alliance and how to get involved, go to pollinatorfriendly.org.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]