Local residents can make a big difference in protecting birds, butterflies and bees at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.

Through a new initiative to enhance habitats for these pollinator species, the refuge, located just east of Seymour off U.S. 50, is offering an Adopt-A-Pollinator Plot program.

Refuge staff, Youth Conservation Corps members, interns and volunteers have been working since April to turn several grassy lawn areas throughout the park into beautiful and functional habitat for pollinators, said Emily Hodapp, Muscatatuck park ranger.

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The areas have been filled with native Indiana wildflowers, grasses and sedges. But to ensure the pollinator habitats continue to function as needed and are successful in increasing pollination, community volunteers are needed.

“Although the flowers and grasses we’ve planted are extremely hardy to drought and extreme temperature, the newly planted areas will require attention to ensure unwanted invasive plants do not take root,” Hodapp said.

Volunteers can adopt a pollinator plot for free to become involved in the pollinator conservation movement.

Pollinators, which include birds, bats, bees, butterflies, wasps and flies, are facing extinction due to increased use of pesticides, loss of native habitat and an abundance of nonnative animal and plant species, Hodapp said.

Why are pollinators so important?

“They are crucial to maintaining the healthy ecosystems animals, including humans, rely on for food and shelter,” she said. “In fact, 75 percent of our crops are pollinated by helpful insects, birds and bats.”

By planting native flowers and grasses at the refuge or at home, people can provide pollinators with food, shelter and a place to reproduce. It also can be a great community service activity, Hodapp said.

“Becoming a steward for a pollinator plot can be a great way for your family to get out and enjoy nature together or can be an opportunity for a local business to give back to the community,” she said. “It can also be a regular event where your organization can make a measurable impact.”

Adopted plots require care just twice a month during the first growing season, which ends in September or October, and little to no maintenance during the rest of the year, Hodapp said.

Those adopting spots will maintain the habitat by planting additional flowers, weeding, watering, pruning and edging. In some areas, sponsors may be asked to transplant vegetation or be involved with seed collections.

Personalized signs will be available for sponsors to display their name on to showcase their efforts in protecting native pollinator habitat.

There are small plots available for a single person to sponsor or larger areas available for groups.

Sponsors will be matched to specific plot areas based on their abilities and time commitment and the needs of the plot.

Instructions and equipment for caring for the plot will be provided, and no prior gardening experience or tools are necessary.

If you go

For information on adopting a pollinator plot or other ways of supporting Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, contact Emily Hodapp at 812-522-4352, ext. 11, or emily_hodapp@fws.gov.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.