Pollinators welcome: goldenrod, purple aster, cowpen daisies, lantantas and other lates season blooms create a pollinator pitstop in downtown San Antonio in October. Photo by Monika Maeckle

 

San Antonio celebrates its Tricentennial birthday this year. The Texas Butterfly Ranch is working with our favorite community collaborators to plant 300 pollinator habitats in honor of the Alamo City’s 300th birthday–300for300.

Why? Because the butterflies, bees, bats and birds that make one of every three bites of our food possible are under siege. Habitat loss, pesticide abuse, and climate change are creating a wicked storm of obstacles that prevent them from thriving.

Also, our Mayor Ron Nirenberg pledged to execute a community wide pollinator garden initiative when he recommitted to the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge last fall. And we feel obliged to help him live up to his words.

How to do it? San Antonio has 10 city council districts representing its 1.5 million residents. We figure if each district plants 30 pollinator habitats, we’ll hit 300 in no time.

It makes sense for San Antonio. We’re the top tourism destination in Texas. Recently, we were also named one of the top culinary/food destinations in the country. Why wouldn’t we support the insects and other wildlife that provide more than $20 billion a year in free ecosystem services that make our fine wining and dining affordable?

Monarch butterfly on Mammoth Sunflower
Mammoth Sunflower seed head provides dozens of nectaring possibilities for a Monarch butterfly. Photo by Monika Maeckle

In San Antonio, we’re also famous for our hospitality. So let’s extend a warm welcome to the pollinators that live among us and seasonally pass through the “Texas Funnel” each year. Together, we can create an environment for pollinators to rest, refuel, and reproduce.

Wildlife friendly habitats can be beautiful and low maintenance, once established. They save water and don’t need pesticides. You can grow one in your front or back yard, carve a pocket prairie out of your lawn, or transform a whisky barrel or large pot into a pitstop for pollinators. Size is not as important as plant diversity, seasonal blooms and host plants that keep pollinators thriving.

Minimum requirements for a pollinator habitat:

  • At least six different native and/or well adapted, noninvasive plants, including
  • At least two larval host plants (the plants on which butterflies lay their eggs)
  • At least two spring nectar plants (plants that bloom in the spring, providing energy/fuel)
  • At least two autumn nectar plants (plants that bloom in the fall, providing energy/fuel)
  • A diverse mix of spring, summer and fall blooms.

 

Bumblebee on bee balm. Photo by Monika Maeckle

 

We also strongly encourage:

  • NO pesticides* in your habitat
  • Mulching the garden or installing dense plugs of plants to choke out undesirable weeds and conserve moisture
  • If using the non-native Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) follow best practice and cut it back in late summer to keep migrating monarch butterflies moving and avoid possible disease build-up
  • Have a recessed area where water can puddle so butterflies can hydrate and take up necessary nutrients, and
  • Consider dead plants and spent seed heads as overwintering shelters for moths, butterflies, and other wildlife. Chop them down in late winter/early spring after you’ve inspected them for eggs, cocoons and other signs of life.

Ready to pledge to plant a pollinator habitat? Sign up here. Also check out our resources page for ideas and guidance.

We join the bees, butterflies, bats, birds and beetles in thanking you for your commitment to help pollinators. And gracias to our community collaborators for helping us pollinate this idea: HEBGardenStyleSA.com, a project of the San Antonio Water System, Native Plant Society of Texas, Bexar County Master GardenersGardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio River Authority and Green Spaces Alliance.

This initiative is a work-in-progress and we welcome your input. Feel free to leave a comment below to recommend other resources or ask for help. We’re planning to map the gardens around the city, which is why we ask for your address when you sign up. So please join us at the link above and help us track our progress. Yard signs coming soon.

Boo-hoo! Dead Monarch caterpillars fall victim to pesticide laced milkweed
Don’t let this happen to you.  Dead Monarch caterpillars fall victim to pesticide laced milkweed. Photo by Sharon Sander

 

*KNOW YOUR GROWERS! Ask the plant seller: Have these plants been treated with systemic pesticides? Systemic pesticides can linger in plant biomass for months and when consumed by caterpillars (future butterflies and moths), will kill the creatures. Read more here.