Local projects designed to create new pollinator habitat

The “buzz” in agriculture and conservation is all about pollinators these days — those birds, butterflies, bats, bees and others that help make our world productive, tasty and beautiful.

National Pollinator Week began Monday and ends Sunday, so we’ve decided to share what the fuss is all about and what’s being done locally.

Sometimes, significant progress can truly be made at a local or county level. Just three years ago, a group of concerned citizens in Jennings County formed a committee to address the declining pollinator populations occurring across the United States.

The United States Department of Agriculture information showed several causes for pollinator decline. Habitat loss and pesticides, though, were the leading causes of the decline, so the committee focused on educating the public and creating new pollinator habitat.

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We called it the “Share Some Space” project and got to work. The community fueled our efforts. Together, we’ve established thousands of acres of new pollinator habitat at factories, our schools, parks and on private land.

We’re happy that other counties, including Jefferson County, are now creating pollinator committees.

First, let’s talk about pollinator education. Even though we all had biology class during our high school era, most of us forgot how important pollination is in the world. The process of pollination means food–for humans, wildlife and domestic animals. It also produces the next generation of seeds, which in turn become plants and the process continues. That’s very important if you like to eat and sustain life on earth.

How many strawberries have you eaten this summer? Blueberries and blackberries are good anytime especially with ice cream. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best. Remove the bees and other animal pollinators from this scenario and things go from simple to complicated.

What would be the outcome?

The supply of fruits and vegetables would greatly decrease, therefore, driving their cost up at our grocery stores. Those gardens in our backyards would grow a healthy plant with blossoms but they would not yield much food (meaning fruits or vegetables).

The process of pollination for more than 75,000 plants within the United States needs an animal pollinator to set fruit.

According to a Cornell University study published the journal “Public Library of Science ONE,” crops pollinated by honeybees and other insects contributed $29 billion to farm income in 2010. Even though this study is eight years old, those figures would be much higher today.

Pollinators provide a service to us by ensuring our food supply and our natural areas. We found the community was eager to learn about pollinators and wanted to help create more space for native pollinators.

Now, let’s talk about pollinator habitat. Habitat is an area where certain species can successfully live and breed. Good habitats have food, shelter, and water. Pollinators used to have habitat throughout our communities, especially on farms, in yards, and in parks. Many fence rows, yards, and fields have been either removed or sprayed to remove flowering plants. These flowering plants were food sources and shelters.

A good goal for individuals and communities is to create new flowering areas.

With three years invested in the Share Some Space Project, there has been a lot of education disseminated and hundreds of new habitats created.

This success is credited to the community’s involvement. Our goal became our motto, “Jennings County, the number one pollinator county in Indiana.”

Today, all the county and city parks have new pollinator habitats. All the elementary schools have Monarch Way Stations (small habitats that allow migrating Monarch butterflies to stop, rest, and feed).

The middle and high schools have larger pollinator gardens.

Farmers have planted 440 acres of pollinator habitat, spread throughout the county. The Jennings County Fairgrounds has an interactive native flower garden.

Some businesses and manufacturers joined in with 1,000-square-foot pollinator habitats developed on their land, including Walmart and many others.

Several residents across the county purchased native plants creating 328 new backyard pollinator gardens. We also distributed 1200 free pollinator seed packets to the public.

Government agencies have done their part. State-owned Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area has planted pollinator habitat, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife properties of Big Oaks and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuges. We also partner with Camp Atterbury on pollinator habitats.

Overall, we estimate the community has created more than 800 new habitats, covering thousands of acres inside Jennings County. Today we don’t think about the decline, we think about the increase in pollinator populations.

We’re helping other counties with their projects and look forward to more pollinators and pollinator habitat in the region.

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Connect with butterflies, birds, and bees at these upcoming events in the southeast Indiana.

6 p.m. June 28: Getting to Know Pollinators — Join the Jefferson County Pollinator Committee for a one hour talk about bees, butterflies and birds. Kirsten Carlson will share about how pollinators live, reproduce, and migrate. The event is free and everyone is welcome. This informal event will be held at the Jefferson County 4-H Community Building.

10 a.m. July 14: Pollinator Walk — Oak Heritage Conservancy has planted 13 acres of native pollinator habitat. That’s wildflowers of all shapes, colors and sizes. Come see the butterfly habitat in full bloom. Plan to walk at least a mile along a mowed path through the wildflower meadows. Walk starts at 10am. Park on the road near 28538 Dunevant Drive at West Harrison. Free event.

July 14: Pollinators in Our Parks — Clifty Falls State Park is home to all sorts of native pollinators, from bats to bees. Head to the park to learn about them all. All day event. Free with park admission.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21: Southern Indiana Butterfly Festival — Head to Charlestown State Park for a day of family fun celebrating butterflies. Free with park admission.

8 a.m. Aug. 4: Butterfly count — Lend a helping hand at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge with this year’s Butterfly count. The annual event is part of a national effort to understand just how many butterflies live, and where. Meet at the refuge office. No  experience needed; novices will be grouped with people who have experience identifying butterflies. Come for a half-day or the whole day (bring a lunch if so).

10 a.m. Aug. 25: Monarch Walk — Stroll among the butterflies and flowers at Oak Heritage Conservancy’s brand new preserve, Monarch Meadow. Visitors can hope to catch the butterfly weed in full bloom. The new grass walking trail will cover gently rolling terrain. The park near 2216 Dibble Road in Rising Sun.

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National Pollinator Week began Monday and ends Sunday. Over the coming year, The Tribune plans to feature stories that help readers learn about native pollinators. Learn what butterflies to look for in the garden. Find out about what to plant to attract bees, butterflies, and birds to a yard or farm. Learn about native wildflowers that grow in the woods. Find out what local residents can do to help native pollinators. The Tribune is partnering with local experts, including biologist and educator Kirsten Carlson, Jennings County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director Andy Ertel, and local conservation group, Oak Heritage Conservancy to provide this series.

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Build a bee home

Native bees help our flowers grow and our world come alive. They come in all shapes and sizes. Most don’t look like a honey bee (back and yellow stripes). Some look metallic green or blue. They can be a small as the lead on your pencil or as big as your thumb. Best of all, most native bees don’t sting. If you want to invite more of these neat bees into your yard, you can build a “Bee Home.”

Many native bees make a home by burrowing a hole into the soil or rotting wood (like a dead tree). They can stay in these homes over winter. They can also lay eggs in these holes. If you build a bee home, you can help bees and get a chance to see how they live.

You can create a perfect home for bees with this simple project. This project uses tools, so get help from an adult.

Note to adults: this is not a trap for carpenter bees. This home gives native bees a place to live over winter and helps them thrive.


  • 4-by-6 inch untreated, dried pine board (or you can try an old fencepost)
  • Drill and drill bits (from ¼ inch to ⅜ inch)
  • Optional: a 1-by-6 inch board
  • A sunny place to put your bee home that’s protected from rain and predators.


1. Cut the wooden block to 8-12 inches long. Optional: cut one end at an angle (so that the roof has a


2. Pick one 6-inch wide side to be the front of the block.

3. Drill holes into the wooden block every ¾ inches. Use a variety of sizes of drill bits, so that different types of native bees can use you bee home. The holes need to be 3-5” deep for the bees.

4. Optional: Add a wooden roof. Cut your 1-by-6 inch board to hang over the edge to keep the bees drier.

5. Mount your bee home on a post or attach it to the side of a building. You want the bees to be warm and protected from rain. A good spot might be under the eaves of a garage or shed (facing to the south).

6. Be proud that you’re helping native bees and start keeping an eye on your bee home to see bees using it. Look for filled up holes and pollen. Next spring, watch for the bees to come out.