It’s time to talk about the 'burbs and the bees. While we’ve all been (supposedly) tucked away in our houses from spring to summer, the local pollinators have been out and about getting buzzed and preserving the natural biodiversity.
I’m not really a plant person. There’s a tiny succulent somewhere in my house: I don’t think either of us get enough sun or water. On the other hand (the one with a green thumb), my father diligently tucks in all his plants when the weather gets extreme. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him make a bed, but he certainly knows how to position a spare bedsheet over a wee tulip. He designates certain watering cans to certain plants. If I’m in charge of watching the flowerbeds while he’s out of town for a weekend, he leaves a long list with their individual schedules of feedings for optimum nutrients. This from a man who could happily live on black cherry Kool-Aid and onion dip if left to his own devices. It is a love language often found in the Midwest: a green yard maintained meticulously. Neighbors coveting a luscious landscaped lawn. The continuous pursuit of perennials that won’t succumb to ridiculously frigid winters. Hosta la vista, baby.
So while I’ve sent many a plant to an early grave (dirt is dirt, right?), I know how to appreciate quality foliage. I also appreciate the wonderful local businesses, iced coffees, and company one can find in downtown Bismarck. Imagine my absolute delight when I came across a really fat bumblebee on Fourth Street a couple weeks ago. If I were a talent scout seeking a model for a honey company, I would have hired this bee immediately. It was the perfect amount of fuzzy, and flew in appealingly lazy circles. I followed this bee a couple blocks, so entrancing was his hum.
There was a big push at the beginning of the pandemic to support local businesses, and I hope that enthusiasm continues. If anything, coming to the heart of the city will show you booming and resilient enterprise on a tiny scale. The area known as Chancellor Square contains more than a few flower beds. Earlier this summer the flower beds were filled with specifically selected native flowering plants and grasses that bloom in the early, mid, and late season to ensure that pollen and nectar are available to pollinators, such as my bee-friend, throughout the growing season. These plants and grasses can also provide a safe habitat for the local pollinators.
It’s the perfect relationship. The bees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and other pollinating pals get to hang out in a space created just for them. They help the plants grow (growing plants is kind of North Dakota’s thing -- more plants means more food, which means more croissants to go with my iced coffees). And we get to look at the pretty plants. Nature conservation is an aesthetically pleasing win-win-win. Where did all these plants and grasses come from?
The Pollinators Planting Project is a celebration of partnership. A symbiotic relationship, like those birds that live on hippos. Everyone benefits. It’s a collaboration between private businesses, nonprofit groups, local government, North Dakota state agencies, and federal agencies. Partners include the North Dakota Game and Fish Department (which provided a grant to purchase the native plant species), Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Lewis & Clark Wildlife Club, Downtown Business Association of Bismarck, Downtown Bismarck Community Foundation, Northern Plains National Heritage Area/Northern Plains Heritage Foundation, Ehrens Consulting, Bismarck Parks & Recreation District, Burleigh County Soil Conservation District and City of Bismarck Forestry Department.
That’s a long list. I know all this because I was telling the Bismarck Downtowners all about my encounters with the Very Fat Bee, a growing number of chill dragonflies, and the appearance of the pleasantly filled flower beds. It’s no coincidence! The Game and Fish Department has been working to create educational programs and urban opportunities to create spaces for pollinators. Hive-fives all around to those working to create natural habitats where everyone and every bee can belong.
Kayla Schmidt is a freelance writer and creative collaborator with The Good Kids. She's a North Dakota boomerang: originally from Minot, she took a detour to study in England before settling in Bismarck.