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  • Writer's pictureKriss Marion

Follow Up to Conservation Summer Camp Lunch #1: Resources to Increase Pollinator Habitat

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

What's the Buzz? Pollinators!

Over 130 women joined a lively and informative Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Zoom last Thursday, and we're still buzzing about it. While talented Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologist Britta Petersen was presenting and WiWiC Conservation Coach Sally Farrar was sharing stories about planting a prairie, the Chat Box was going wild. Our workshop organizers Sara George and Elena Gutierrez Byrne were answering questions, looking up resources, and copying comments. What follows is a digest of resources that were mentioned by presenters and participants, and some outstanding questions we hope our Wisconsin Women in Conservation community will address on our Facebook page. If you are not already following us there and on Pinterest and Instagram, please do and keep the conversation going. Our next Summer Camp Lunch Zoom is on Building Soil Health. It's noon to 1pm on June 24, and you can sign up HERE. Thanks for showing up and for taking care of land!

Companion to Summer Camp Conservation Session, Increase Pollinator Habitat

May 27, 2021

Pheasants Forever and Farm Bill Biologists

Pheasants Forever homepage

Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

Options for Citizen Science, Joining, Donations

Monarch Joint Venture


Site prep methods (PF Webinar)

Shrub planting methods (PF/Britta)


Resources Shared from chat:

Bridging the Gap for Butterfly’s Event: June 12, 2021 Central WI

Blue Karner Endangered: WI Dept. Natural Resources

Horticulture Outreach Specialist for Rock and Walworth Counties: Julie Hill

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project : another citizen science initiative for Monarchs

Pheasants Forever Find a Farm Bill Biologist

Xerces Society - Karin Jokela

From Myha Ewoldt, FSA Agent: Changes to the CRP Program this summer include:

  • Increased soil rental rates. Soil rental rates vary by county, but WI has seen an average increase in maximum annual rental rates of $72 per acre compared to the previous rates!

  • Increased incentive payments from 20% to 50% for certain CRP practices. This incentive is based on the cost of establishment and is in addition to the regular 50% cost share payments.

  • Increased payments for water quality practices such as grassed waterways, riparian buffers, and filter strips.

  • Moving State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices to the CRP continuous signup. Unlike the general signup, producers can sign up year-round for the continuous signup and be eligible for additional incentives. Depending on your County, SAFE can include Monarch Butterfly habitat, tall grass prairie, and Karner Blue Butterfly habitat.

  • We don’t know the official Conservation Reserve Program signup period yet, but it is coming soon.

  • Reach out to your local Farm Service Agency to learn more or visit Conservation Reserve Programs Site

  • You can also sign up for the USDA GovDelivery e-newsletter, which notifies you of deadlines and new programs offered by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency.

Questions & Answers:

We have a couple of acres of green ash that we are going to cut down (thanks borer). We want to convert it to pollinator habitat. Ideas for a tree-area conversion?

  1. Probably the biggest concern here is the stumps that will be left over. If you can, it would be best to have those removed because if they remain, it will be hard to use certain equipment there in the future for planting and management of the prairie.

  2. If that’s not an option across the whole site, then I would pick the best place for the planting (soils, site access, topography) and focus your efforts on a smaller area to get the stumps out and plant there.

  3. Site prep after stump removal, will be similar to any pollinator planting. Prairie Establishment 101 with PF

Can you put the email address for conservation plan contact here in the chat? thanks!

I'm wondering how to know if a part of a property can or should be turned into a prairie? There is a property we are considering purchasing: a current old dairy farm now in corn/soy monoculture. How to best consider what to "turn it into"?

One place to start would be to look at some of the old photos and see what the landscape was like historically. You can find the 1938 photos here: WI 1938 Imagery If it was forest or it was more open/prairie, it would help to know what the area might want to be if you take the ag part away.

  1. Our native prairie plants will grow in a lot of places but if the farm is small and completely surrounded by forest, then maybe planting shrubs is a better option. If it’s a lot of agricultural fields then, it’s more than likely you can turn those into prairie. A lot of our native species like full sun so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

  2. Probably the easiest/recommended site for planting a prairie initially is into a harvested soybean field so if that is an option, that’s where I would start. Up to you how much of a field but generally the bigger blocks of habitat (of anything, including prairie) is the best.

  3. This is also a good question for a Farm Bill biologist or NRCS conservationist! They would be able to make recommendations on locations and if programs could help with the cost of establishing a prairie. Please contact the WiWiC team to help you to schedule a field walk.

Can you explain what organic site prep is??

  1. Organic Site Preparation basically means getting the site ready for a planting but not using chemical herbicides. Site prep can vary depending on what methods of planting are being used, but generally you’re looking for at least 50% bare soil to spread the seed on/plant in to. Some examples of organic site prep are smother cropping, solarization, or sheet mulching.

How have you kept brambles out of the prairie? we can't seem to keep them at bay

  1. I would mow before they go to seed, and after a few years of this, they will die out.

  2. Repeated mowings before they go to seed can definitely help and you would have to do that for several years in a row. If the patch is very dense and taking over an area, that may be time to consider an herbicide application. Or if you’re able to use prescribed fire as a management tool, burning can help kill some of those for good.

  3. Are the brambles coming in from the edge?? It seems like that’s fairly common and sometimes having a mowed trail around the edge helps to keep the brambles from spreading via runners and it also gives you a firebreak.

What are the non-chemical methods to prepare the land for starting a prairie?

  1. The most common options are listed in the Xerces Organic Set Prep document. If you’re looking to convert an ag field to prairie, consider the smother cropping option. There seems to be the most success with that. On small sites, solarizing can work well also.

Are there any free or low cost resources for creating conservation plans, like a DIY type thing?

Please contact the WiWiC team to see if we can help. We have some funding to create small conservation plans for women and we can see if yours can fit into ours. Or we can connect you to NRCS staff who can give you options without involving a cost at the outset. Involving professionals can give you better insights and there is no cost involved for having them (NRCS conservationist) do a site visit.

Could you send a link to the organic site prep methods?

Our first year pollinator plot is being invaded by wild parsnip from a neighbor's property. What can we do?

If wild parsnip is found before the infestation gets too large, landowners can dig out the individual plants and dispose of them properly (avoid contact with skin to steer clear of the phototoxic sap). However, if the infestation has already become well-established and covers a large area, digging the plants out by hand is not very effective or efficient. The best way to control larger parsnip populations is to continually mow the plants before they flower and produce seed. This mowing needs to happen several times during the summer for 3-5 years. Unfortunately, doing this can eliminate habitat for grassland birds and pollinators for a few years while the continual mowing occurs. However, this is the best hope to restore the field and other areas into a place where birds, pollinators, and beautiful wildflowers can thrive over the long run. Managing Wild Parsnip

Please find links to help you to control parsnips on your property if not in a pollinator habitat.

Are Asian Lady Beetles pollinators? If they are, I’ll try to think better of them.

Asian Lady Beetles are not pollinators but may pollinate in the process. They were introduced as a biological control agent for aphids and scale insects, and many other pests that injure our gardens. Here’s a document from Ohio State that gives you info about this predator.

Is there an app that is good for plant identification? I’ve used the Seek app (powered by iNaturalist) and like it but wondering if there are other ones…..

  1. You can try the Wisconsin Wildflower App. It allows you to search by flower color, habitat type, location, etc.. and is really user-friendly.

  2. Or iNaturalist - you can take a picture and then upload it and it will make suggestions.

  3. I’ve used Picture This, it can ID plants, diagnose disease, explain where it grows best, or identify if it is invasive. Explains how to remove it, how to improve it, zones, hardiness, soil conditions and so much more.

Does anyone have any good bee ID guides? I still have trouble IDing them, even when I get a photo.

Is there a cost to have a biologist come and do an assessment?

There is no cost for a Farm Bill biologist or NRCS conservationist to do a site visit.

Anyone have an idea of a good bee App?

WiBee app

I have not tried this one but since it’s from WI, it would probably at least give you the best “close” guesses without confusing them with species from other parts of the country.

Do ground nest bees also make honey to collect?

Ground bees – a term that covers more than 70 percent of the 4,000-plus bee species native to North America – look a lot like European honeybees when seen in flight or on a flower, since they too have hairy, colorful, or black-striped bodies. But they don’t make honey. They are excellent pollinators.

What can you do for buckthorn?

  1. Kill it! There is a great publication from UW-Extension that walks through identification, and mechanical and chemical options for control. Here’s the link to the management of Buckthorn (Wisconsin invasive): Common and Glossy Buckthorn

  2. Once it’s removed, it can be a good idea to try and plant native species afterwards (if the site is small enough and that makes sense.) Examples would be Nannyberry, Hazelnut, Dogwood.

  3. There are also EQIP practices available to help with some of the cost for buckthorn/woody invasives. You can ask your local NRCS folks or Farm Bill biologist about the process to apply.

  4. As for buckthorn control, please refer to the below publication.

  5. The quickest way to get your lawn & garden questions answered is by using the below link:


  • Milkweed will grow in any fertile soil in Southeastern Wisconsin. Preferred varieties to grow: common, swamp, and butterfly milkweed

  • Common milkweed is up now and half eaten by butterfly caterpillars. But it spreads rapidly, so plant it in an area surrounded by natural borders such as walls, sidewalks, etc.

  • Swamp milkweed is up but won't have enough foliage to feed butterflies for another month. It is also slow to establish unless it's in a wet area.

  • Butterfly weed is just emerging now. You need to mark it so you don't plant something else in it's place. But it will be flowering late into the fall when all other milkweed is long gone to seed.

Plant seeds in the fall or use established plants. Once planted, milkweed is hard to move because of deep roots. The below article has other details you will enjoy.

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