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Rhode Island Farm a ‘Riot of Pollinator Activity’

Posted by Gary Casabona, Rhode Island State Biologist on June 02, 2016 at 02:43 PM
An American copper butterfly gathers nectar from anise hyssop.

An American copper butterfly gathers nectar from anise hyssop.

Amid a sea of lance-leaf coreopsis, partridge pea and anise hyssop growing on Godena Farm, you hear a faint buzz. It’s the sound of bees hard at work—and proof of a healthy landscape.

The Conanicut Island Land Trust purchased the Jamestown, Rhode Island farm to conserve open space and create a permanent sanctuary for pollinators. Managers of the 25-acre farm have planted wildflowers and warm-season grasses, improving habitat for bees and other pollinators, as well as wildlife. And the result? It’s what Quentin Anthony, the land trust’s president, calls “a riot of pollinator activity.”   

Even though crops are no longer grown on the farm, its bee hives, maintained by the trust and the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association, yield substantial amounts of honey thanks to the farm’s abundance of bees and wildflowers. 

Partridge pea is part of the high-value pollinator mix composed of 16 species of wildflowers planted on Godena Farms.

Planting Natives
It started with a plan. The trust teamed with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and The Xerces Society to put together a plan to conserve and improve the land on Godena Farm. Through an NRCS Farm Bill conservation program, the trust planted five acres of conservation cover that grown into meadows of wildflowers.

The land trust planted a pollinator mix composed of 16 species of wildflowers, including coreopsis, lupine, partridge pea, milkweed, and goldenrod, as well as warm-season bunch grasses. In addition to the meadow habitat, the trust’s conservation plan included native shrubs.

With help from NRCS, volunteers planted arrowwood viburnum, inkberrry, elderberry, and blueberry that not only attract pollinators, but also grow berries that give songbirds the fuel they need to survive their long-distance migrations.  

All of the above provide native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators with the resources they need to thrive. Native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees are especially important—they’re adapted to the local growing conditions and require less maintenance in the long run. Milkweed is of special importance because it is a “host plant” on which female monarch butterflies deposit their eggs.

Partners for Pollinators
NRCS, Xerces and other groups are partnering with farmers, ranchers, and owners of forestlands across the country to establish pollinator-friendly conservation practices onto working lands. In all, NRCS has more than three dozen conservation practices that directly benefit pollinators.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and other programs, NRCS helps farmers plant top-notch habitat for native bees. These habitats can mark borders between fields and improve water quality when established along waterways.

NRCS also works with ranchers to integrate pollinator- and cattle-friendly plants into pastures.

Projects and partnerships like the one at Godena Farm inspire farmers, ranchers, land managers, and other conservation partners across the nation to take action. Through field days on farms, NRCS and other interested farmers get connected and share ideas about how to protect and sustain pollinators.  

Because of this work, landscapes nationwide are supporting healthier populations of native bees and butterflies, and making honey bee colonies stronger.

Learn more!  
Sign up for email updates on pollinators, or contact your local USDA service center.

Related Links

Tags: pollinators, Rhode Island

categories Plants & Animals , Farmer & Rancher Stories

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