Bee and Monarch butterfly populations are in decline. Now, more than ever, it's imperative to recognize the importance of native grasses and wildflowers on our roadsides and protect that natural habitat.
About three-quarters of the world's flowering plants and many of the food crops eaten in North America depend on pollinators. No pollination would mean no apples, blueberries, almonds, melons, pumpkins, CHOCOLATE or COFFEE.
In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $24 billion worth of products annually.
What is KDOT doing to help protect pollinators and native habitat?
KDOT partnered with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (KDWP&T), the Kansas Wildflower Society, the Kansas Biological Survey, Audubon of Kansas and the Kansas Turnpike Authority to produce the Kansas Wildflowers, Native Grasses & Shrubs brochure. 315,000 copies were printed and distributed. The brochure/poster depicts KDOT's efforts to improve the environment and beautify Kansas roadways by restoring the right-of-way to native habitat.
KDOT became part of a joint partnership between the KDWP&T, Kansas Department of Agriculture, and the Audubon of Kansas. The goal of this partnership was to help protect and preserve the natural beauty of native plant species that are found in our state. New seed mixes and erosion control practices were developed to more closely represent and protect vegetation naturally found in that particular region, benefitting wildlife and pollinating insects.
KDOT and partners from conservation groups and the KDWP&T formed an Aesthetics Task Force to develop a better way to manage the more than 150,000 acres of state-owned highway right-of-way. What emerged was a roadside management policy that not only saves money and fuel, but also enhances roadside beauty. Some of the important changes included updating KDOT's mowing policy limiting frequency and timing of mowing to allow native wildflowers and grasses to set seed, spot spraying of herbicides rather than broadly applying chemicals and adding a more diverse selection of native grasses and wildflowers to our seed mixes.
KDOT again revised its wildflower mixes to include a greater number and variety of native wildflowers. This will enhance roadside beauty and provide beneficial nectar sources for pollinators such as bees, butterflies, beetles, moths and even hummingbirds. Providing wildflower-rich habitat is the most significant action we can take to support pollinators. Native plants, which are adapted to local soils and climates, are usually the best sources for nectar and pollen for native pollinators.
KDOT is currently involved in a 15-acre mass wildflower and milkweed planting project along I-35 at the Homewood Rest Area. This project is being done in cooperation with the Monarch Highway Project, whose members consist of other state DOT's, local agencies, private entities, and organizations interested in protecting and preserving the ever-declining population of bees and Monarch butterflies. KDOT will continue to select other areas throughout the state to do the same type of project.
Most people are familiar with the flowering annual and perennials in their flower beds that attract bees and other pollinators. They may be less familiar with the fact that bees forage for pollen and nectar up in the tree canopy. With their profusion of flowers, trees are a convenient food source for bees and other pollinators.