Treasures of Oz

Celebrating the Natural Gems of Ozaukee County


Benefits of Having a Homegrown Pollinator Park

Dr. James Angresano, Mequon Resident

Have you ever been in another state or country and unable to find the particular food you enjoy eating? For me, there is the memory of a restaurant breakfast in Bulgaria when the only option was tripe soup. When I moved to Mequon 8 years ago, I noticed that my yard, despite containing almost 1.5 acres and bordering River Barn Park, had very few birds, butterflies, and pollinators such as bumble bees and honeybees. Soon after I began volunteering at the Mequon Nature Preserve, I learned that their absence was mostly due to their inability to find the food they wished to eat. Instead, these creatures vital to our food chain typically encounter invasive species, ornamental plants, and well-manicured lawns but few native plants.

great spangled fritillary on a native wildflower in mequon

Great Spangled Fritillary

children in a native pollinator garden

I realized the problem was that our beautiful, well-groomed yards, which collectively comprise about half of Mequon land, have replaced habitat that contained an abundance of water, food, and shelter enjoyed by birds, butterflies, and insects. I decided to transform my yard into what one writer calls a “homegrown park” that would attract and sustain more birds, butterflies, and bees that pollinate (not wasps to which I am allergic). My yard now features numerous native trees, shrubs, and flowers. Creating this park and enjoying colorful blooms throughout the yard for much of the year has been a source of pleasure and relaxation while reducing stress, either when looking through my house windows or walking around the yard. Family, friends, and neighbors who have visited my yard have had similar feelings.

When I walk throughout Mequon or Thiensville, I see very few birds, butterflies, or bees. I once thought that our many public parks, nature preserves, and designated wetland, along the few yards I walked by that, have many native plants, would be sufficient to support a large population. For us to enjoy watching and receiving benefits provided by birds and pollinators, we need a collective effort by many homeowners to create their own homegrown pollinator parks of various sizes to provide a healthy diet for birds and needed pollinators.

If you might be interested in having such a park, you find a list of guidelines provided by the Mequon-Thiensville Rotary, the Mequon Nature Preserve, and the Xerces Society’s “Checklist of Actions.” Some suggestions include converting some of your yards into a food source for insects and birds with pollinator beds that would include trees, shrubs and/or flowers native to Wisconsin. Adding a source of water would also be beneficial. In addition, remove those invasive plants on your property, such as the buckthorn and garlic mustard, that crowd out native plants and provide almost no nutrition for pollinators. Leaving some dandelions and minimizing the use of chemical weed killers, fertilizer, and pesticides.