IOWA NEWS: DOT: 'We need pollinators, pollinators need our help'

AMES – The Iowa Department of Transportation, as part of a group of D.O.T.s along Interstate 35, also known as the “Monarch Highway,” reminds everyone of the importance of pollinator insects to our environment and well-being.

Why do pollinators matter?

Pollinators are an indispensable part of our lives, important for our diet and for the health of plants and wildlife. However, wild pollinators such as monarch butterflies and many bumblebee species, as well as colonies of managed honey bees, are on the decline because of habitat loss due to agriculture and development, the spread of disease, overuse of pesticides, and other factors. Declines of pollinator populations threaten agricultural productivity and put the health of natural ecosystems at risk.

The Iowa D.O.T. has long been a proponent of creating pollinator habitat. Since the 1960s we have planted more than 50,000 acres of diverse native roadside plantings that provide pollinator habitat and food sources. In addition, it has been standard practice for several years that all new construction projects include diverse native plants that provide new habitat and food sources for pollinators. To keep costs low, we do an annual bulk seed purchase each year. From that bulk seed, specific mixes are created for each construction project to best meet the needs in that area.

By incorporating native species, we have minimized mowing and spraying of roadsides to not only save money but to maintain pollinator habitat throughout all seasons. Also, native plants tend to have deeper root systems, which helps control erosion on Iowa roadsides.

We also cooperate with other states, as well as with local, state, and national organizations to educate and promote native plantings on their roadsides.

We can all help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators by planting plants or preserving existing plants that create habitats for pollinators in our yards, gardens, parks, farms, and more. You can also protect areas that could serve as habitats from pesticides. Find out more about pollinator species in Iowa and their habitats with the “Pollinators in Iowa” booklet published through the Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund.