Tag Archives | pollinators

Local Rain Garden Receives National Attention

photo by CSWCD

Rain garden installation in 2014

Earlier this month the Clackamas United Church of Christ (CUCC) was awarded first place in a national “Be the Church of the Month” contest with the theme “Protect the Environment.” This honor highlighted two urban conservation practices the church installed on their property in 2014.

It was March of 2014 when CUCC partnered with Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District to implement on-site stormwater management practices at the church. With funding from a Water Environment Services RiverHealth Stewardship grant and with volunteer labor from the CUCC congregation, two conservation practices were installed:

  1. an infiltration rain garden, and
  2. a habitat hedgerow (including 25 native trees along the parking lot perimeter).

Both projects are accessible to the public and demonstrate low-impact landscaping practices that landowners can easily replicate on their own property to help manage stormwater runoff. Interpretive signage explains how the rain garden works and how it protects water quality and improves pollinator habitat. Plants for both rain garden and hedgerow were specifically chosen to support native wildlife and pollinator communities.

You may view these projects at the Clackamas United Church of Christ located at 15303 SE Webster Road in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District provides technical assistance for conservation practices free of charge to Clackamas County landowners.

Plan and Plant the Best Pollinator Habitat Possible

National Pollinator Week June 20-26

photographer Jason Faucera

Pollinator visiting camas, photo by Jason Faucera

If you have listened to news reports over the last few years, you probably know that pollinators are in trouble. They have had a serious decline in population due to habitat loss and chemical issues. Now that we know this, let us take some time to fill in the specifics of how we can provide good habitat for pollinators.

Consider some of these ways to make your pollinator garden or patch the most successful habitat possible!


Plant a grouping of the same flowering plant that measures at least three feet in diameter. A block of flowers provides several benefits such as requiring less energy for the bee or other pollinator to fly from flower to flower. Brightly colored groupings are easier to spot when a pollinator is looking for food. In addition, it gives you a better chance for you to provide enough food to sustain the pollinator population present at your location.


You may not have considered this, but not all bees can fly the same distance. Small bees such as the sweat bee may fly no more than 200 yards, whereas a large bee such as a bumble bee is able to fly a mile or more. Therefore, it makes sense to have your pollinator patches near the crops you want to have pollinated. Berry fields or backyard apple tree, it makes no difference because the concepts are the same!


Diversity is the key to pollinator habitat! Because there is a difference in physical features, not all pollinators can access the nectar and pollen of every flower. Differences in size, length of tongue, and mouthparts all dictate what types of flower can provide food for a pollinator. Bumble bees are large enough to push their way into a complex flower, but a pollinator such as a fly with short mouthparts will require a small, open flower such as yarrow or a daisy.

You should plan for a variety of flower size, shape, color, and height in your planting. Include plants with tubular flowers and complex flowers like tall lobelia and lupine; throw in some simple flowers such as asters and cosmos. Try plants that are low to the ground plants such as alyssum, medium size plants such as lavender and Echinacea and tall plants such as sunflowers. Do not forget flowering shrubs such as ceanothus and red flowering currants!

One last important detail to remember…make sure something is blooming all season long, from early spring to late fall. Your local pollinator will appreciate you!

To find out more about pollinators check out Attracting Native Pollinators , a Xerces Society Guide.

Who Knew…Bugs to the Rescue!

Praying Mantis with a grasshopper lunch. Chris Horne, bugwood.org

Praying Mantis with a grasshopper lunch. Photo by Chris Horne, bugwood.org

Were you aware that many beetles, flies, and “true bugs” actually attack, lay eggs in, and sometimes eat harmful pests that farmers and gardeners often control with pesticides? These beneficial insects work in relative silence, often keeping the harmful insect population below bothersome levels.

Farmers Give it a Try

As farmers learn more about the advantages of employing beneficial insects to control pests, they are also learning how to protect and increase the good insect populations by adjusting farming practices. This is an approach to biological control called conservation biocontrol. The practice includes providing food and shelter for beneficial insects in non-cropped areas so when a pest arrives, there is a population of beneficial insects to attack the pest. Think of it as marrying natural habitats with farm fields.

Why is this evolving method of insect control so exciting? Because it provides an effective alternative to using insecticides. While conservation biocontrol may not completely eliminate the need for chemical applications, it may reduce the chemical use to the minimum amount that is absolutely necessary to sell a crop. Moreover, a targeted insecticide may be used, thus avoiding harm to other creatures.

Investment and Return

Providing food and shelter may come in the form of planting cover crops in field margins, building beetle banks (mounded strips covered with native grasses and wildflowers), planting strips of native plants around field edges, installing hedgerows of native trees and shrubs, and leaving brush piles in small areas around the farm. Other practices include providing clean sources of water, reduced till or no-till planting of fields, using insecticides that are selective or have low toxicity (when necessary), and not spraying toward insect habitat areas, especially when flowers are in bloom.

photographer Jason Faucera

Pollinator visiting camas photo by Jason Faucera

While this may not sound like a big deal, it translates into millions of dollars of savings for food producers, nursery and flower growers, and Christmas tree producers. According to the Xerces Society’s newest guide, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects: Ecological Pest Control Solutions, Professor Doug Landis from Michigan State University and his colleagues estimated that the suppression of soybean aphid using beneficial insects was worth $239 million dollars a year in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (based on 2008 soybean prices).

Scaling Down

Gardeners take note! You can scale-down all of these practices to encourage beneficial insects to fit your home landscape. When you notice aphids on your favorite cut flowers, check for beneficial insects that may already be on the job!
One last note before you are off to install your own hedgerow. All of the practices that provide food and shelter for beneficial insects also provide food and shelter for our struggling pollinators! Wow, two good things for the price of one!

To learn more about conservation biocontrol, check out:

Invite a Pollinator Home!

Pollinator on Blueberry photo by Jeremy Baker

Pollinator on Blueberry photo by Jeremy Baker

As you pop that juicy blueberry into your mouth and enjoy the sweet berry goodness, say a silent “thank you” to your local pollinator! We owe a debt of gratitude to these hard workers, busily carrying pollen from one flower to the next. Therefore, in recognition of National Pollinator Awareness week (June 14 thru 21), let us all do just one thing to help the struggling pollinators.

Here are a few ideas that may get you started:

Plant an unusable area. Consider planting native (non-invasive) plants in an unusable area of your property. You will not miss the space and the pollinators will be thrilled with the new source of food! Plants that flower at varying times throughout the summer will extend the availability of nectar.

Invite a pollinator for a drink. Provide a clean, reliable source of drinking water for pollinators. Water features such as pools, ponds, running water, small containers, and birdbaths will all do the trick. Do not forget to make sure there is a shallow or sloping side for the pollinator to safely access without drowning.

Offer shelter to a little friend. Sites for nesting are crucial in the survival of pollinators. The following are a few ways you can provide shelter. First, try to layer your landscape. Plant trees, shrubs and perennials with varying heights to provide protected areas for the pollinators to eat and nest. Second, leave dead snags for nesting sites or install pollinator-nesting boxes. These are available at many retailers or you may make your own boxes. Third, leave some areas of soil uncovered to provide ground-nesting insects easy access to make underground tunnels.

Hold off on pesticides. Pollinators are susceptible to pesticides. However, there are ways you can reduce, eliminate, or limit pesticide use. Try choosing native plants for your garden. Native plants are tolerant of local conditions and tend to have fewer problems requiring chemicals. Another strategy is to maintain healthy growing conditions on your property. Remove diseased plants and infected leaves from the previous year. Why not enjoy the outdoors and spend some time using hand tools to remove weeds rather than herbicides? If you must use pesticides, please READ THE LABEL, and spray when the plant is not in bloom. Avoid spraying adjacent to bee habitat, such as nesting areas or on caterpillar host plants.

HiRes These may seem like small things, but we can all make a difference in the life of a pollinator!


Farmscaping for Predators, Parasitic Wasps and Native Bees

farmscaping photoBeneficial insects occur naturally in agricultural and surrounding landscapes and provide valuable services to farms. Predatory and parasitic insects are critically important for keeping pest insect populations in check, while native bees are significant crop pollinators. To maximize their contribution to farms these insects require habitat features that may be lacking in farm landscapes.

For those interested in attracting beneficial insects, Gwendolyn Ellen (Coordinator of the Farmscaping for Beneficials Program), Paul Jepson (Director IPPC, Oregon State University), and Terry Muilenberg (owner/manager Green Valley Farm) will be leading a farm walk to introduce the use of conservation and habitat practices to increase on-farm populations of beneficial insects. This event is focusing on Christmas Tree production and environmental quality.


Farmscaping for Predators, Parasitic Wasps and Native Bees in Christmas Tree Farms
An educational farmwalk for farmers and agricultural professionals
Wednesday, June 17th
10:00 – 1:00
Green Valley Farm
Molalla, OR

RSVP: Gwendolyn Ellen at Oregon State University
gwendolyn@science.oregonstate.edu or 541-737-6272

farmscaping details

Candy Lane Students to the Rescue!

Candy Lane bucket Brigade

Candy Lane Bucket Brigade

During a blustery morning of wind and rain, enthusiastic students from Candy Lane Elementary braved the elements in order to help support local pollinators. With planning and financial assistance from Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, the students are active helpers in the construction of a new pollinator hedgerow in their schoolyard.

Candy Lane Elementary is also home to Schoolyard Farms, a non-profit that operates an impressive 1-acre urban farm on the school grounds. Schoolyard Farms provides hands-on garden education for the students and operates a small CSA (community supported agriculture) for local community members. The farm will soon be supplementing the school lunch program with healthy, nutritious produce straight from the garden!

A hedgerow is a line of dense vegetation that provides habitat for wildlife, screens an unwanted view, marks property lines, and can serve as an attractive feature in the landscape. The hedgerow in this particular project will provide food and shelter for pollinators that support the farm crops. The pollinators, ranging from the native mason bee to the playful Rufous hummingbird, will benefit from the diversity of native trees, shrubs, and groundcovers that will provide nectar when the farm crops are not in bloom. The basalt basins in the landscape will serve as sources of temporary water, completing the habitat needs of the pollinators. Eventually, the students hope to build additional habitat shelters, such as mason bee boxes.

Candy Lane students got the project off to a great start by helping prepare the hedgerow garden beds. Despite the soggy conditions, the students happily formed a bucket brigade to move the mountain of compost to the new beds. Our friends Pat, Steve, and Dick from North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council also provided a big help by moving a few (dozen) loads of compost in the wheelbarrows. Thanks guys! Soon we’ll all be out in the garden again to plant our hedgerow with native Oregon grape, red flowering currant, and cascara!