The bees’ knees of habitats created for pollinators

National Pollinator Week, recognized from June 17-21, celebrates the humble bees, butterflies, bats and other bugs that pollinate and help more than 70 percent of the world’s crops. Electric cooperatives are among the many organizations that have focused on the plight of these pollinators and have done their part to re-establish their native habitat.

Great River Energy has restored approximately 200 acres of native habitat and looks for ways to incorporate prairie and pollinator-friendly plantings along transmission lines, near substations and on land where the cooperative has facilities.

Great River Energy looks for areas near its facilities to plant pollinator-friendly habitats. This 7-acre habitat is being established near its Riverview Substation in Freeport, Minn.

“Great River Energy looks for transmission projects that might be suited for pollinator-friendly plantings,” said Craig Poorker, Great River Energy’s land rights manager. “We work with local park authorities and other public land stakeholders to find suitable sites in our rights of way. We work together to ensure that the pollinator-friendly planting will flourish. Great River Energy has been re-establishing native habitats where we can for years, and we continue to partner with stakeholders and seek opportunities for new projects. These projects support our commitment to investing in Minnesota communities and finding innovative solutions to manage costs.”

Great River Energy has established these pollinator-friendly projects in the past year.

  • Lake Marion Substation: 2 acres near a transmission substation located south of Lakeville, Minn.
  • SH line: 5 acres of native habitat near Willmar, Minn., underneath a transmission line.
  • Bunker Lake Substation: 1.8 acres in Andover, Minn., near a substation.
  • St. Bonifacius: 3.6 acres in Carver County near one of its facilities.
  • Riverview Substation: Currently establishing approximately 7 acres in Freeport, Minn., after building a new substation.

Great River Energy’s pollinator-friendly prairie in Elk River continues to mature since its planting in 2016. Native wildflowers will bloom at different times throughout the season. Travelers along Highway 10 will see the prairie changing colors from spring to fall as many of the native grasses that have been establishing and developing for the first few growing season become more noticeable.

“Third-year prairies typically begin to look more like actual prairies,” said Nikki Brown, Minnesota Native Landscapes, Inc., site manager. “By the end of the third growing season we typically see a healthier mix of native grasses and flowers, giving it the ‘prairie’ look.”

Minnesota Native Landscapes, Great River Energy’s prairie contractor, will conduct spot mowing for smaller patches and spot herbicide to help control perennial weedy species, including Canada thistle, smoot brome and tree seedlings.