Establishment of Wildflower Islands to Enhance Roadsides for Pollinators Health and Aesthetics

Recently, a Presidential Memorandum was released and highlights an overarching strategy goal to restore and enhance pollinator habitat acreage through federal actions and public/private partnerships. Seeded grasslands with a high density of wildflowers on roadsides have excellent potential for providing songbird and pollinator habitat. Wildflowers are particularly critical in providing habitat for grassland songbirds and pollinators (e.g., bees and butterflies), both of which have experienced massive declines in numbers over the last decade or more. Wildflowers are particularly important to pollinators in spring and early summer, before other food sources are available. Effective habitat restoration must be appropriate for the desired pollinator species, affordable to establish in the short term, and self-sustaining in the long-term (Black et al. 2011). Because roadsides offer continuous swaths of vegetation, testing establishment of wildflower refuges or 2 islands in this context holds great opportunity for providing pollinator habitat. This research will evaluate whether establishment of wildflower islands on roadsides will provide better stands of wildflowers, more plant diversity, improved bee health, and greater abundance and diversity of native bee pollinators compared to roadsides where wildflowers are seeded conventionally with grasses across the entire area. The problem with the latter or conventional approach to seeding is that wildflowers may become established, but don’t persist in extensively managed roadsides and it is expensive for Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) to seed wildflowers across entire roadsides. Establishment and management of wildflowers in islands/refuges will reduce seed costs and is hypothesized to provide better establishment and persistence of wildflower populations.