For Butterflies, Birds & Bees: New Pollinator Plot

Posted: November 13, 2019

What’s all the buzz about the new plants and corn sculptures in front of the Farm Bureau Building? Check out Farm Bureau’s new pollinator garden plot.

DeKalb County Farm Bureau has established a new pollinator plot for the benefit of attracting pollinators who help make food for the food web.

The new Farm Bureau Pollinator Plot was developed with funding by Bayer Crop Science. Mark Tuttle, (center) Farm Bureau Foundation President, joins Bayer staff in commemorating the plot – (from left) John Hardin, Research Site Lead; Troy Dukes, Production Site Lead; Mark Tuttle; Brian Deverell, Field Sales Representative for DEKALB Asgrow; and Julie Ruffatti, Seed Technology Center Lab Operations Manager.

“It made sense that our farm organization would create a plot for pollinators to help our ecosystem,” said Mark Tuttle, president of the Farm Bureau and its Foundation. “This is one way we are doing our part to show the value of pollinators to food production.”

Almost 90 percent of flowering plants rely on animal pollinators. Most flowering plants count on animal pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies to spread pollen.

The Farm Bureau pollinator plot was funded by Bayer Crop Science and its local divisions of production, research, seed technology, and seed sales. The company which maintains its own pollinator plots at its Waterman sites, is a strong proponent of similar plots.

Janet Giesen, Master Naturalist, plants a variety of native species in the pollinator garden at Farm Bureau. 

“The local Bayer Teams are proud to sponsor this new pollinator garden at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Pollinators play a huge role in agriculture and are vital to our success, whether its large scale production or a small vegetable garden,” said Troy Dukes, with Bayer.

The pollinator garden was designed and planted by DeKalb County Extension Master Naturalists. They chose eight different native plant species to incorporate in the circular garden. The local group will also be maintaining the pollinator garden under the direction of Master Naturalist Janet Giesen.

“Pollinator gardens are essential to the natural web of life,” said Janet. “Specifically, local native plant species provide nectar, pollen and seeds as food for regional insects, birds and bats as well as species that migrate through our area.”

“I hope that those who visit the garden will learn about native plant species, the process of pollination, the benefits of a well-planned pollinator garden and the variety of pollinating insects that visit them throughout the year,” she said.

Tom Mays and Collin Bakken install the copper-painted steel corn sculptures which they created in the pollinator garden.

Amongst the plants are signs identifying the species and an explanation of the purpose of a pollinator plot. Farm Bureau welcomes this educational component as people frequent the Farm Bureau Building and get a close-up look of the garden near the building’s front entrance in the circle drive.

To complement the garden, steel corn sculptures were designed and hand-crafted by local carpenter Tom Mays. Seven copper-painted sculptures resembling the likes of field corn plants were erected in the center of the garden by the flag pole. The corn plants range in height from 5 to 10 feet.

“It was a labor of love,” explained Tom, about the many hours of hand pounding steel to make each leaf look realistic. “I studied real field corn plants before creating the sculptures to make sure what I created was accurate.” He saw differences in the real corn plants and the intertwining of leaves was an art in itself to replicate.

Tom was assisted by Collin Bakken, a student in welding at Kishwaukee College. Collin brought his skillsets to Tom’s shop along with an artistic eye. Upon completion, they were both pleased with the final sculptures – unique standout pieces in Farm Bureau’s pollinator garden.

What is a Pollinator Plot?

Pollination is an important part of the life cycle of plants.  A plant cannot produce fruit or seeds unless it is pollinated. A pollinator plot is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a range of pollinating animals. Most flowering plants rely on pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds and bats to help spread pollen. When pollinators eat flower nectar, pollen sticks to their bodies and is spread from flower to flower. This is called cross-pollination. Some types of pollen are spread by wind or water and don’t need pollinators. Some plants use their own pollen for fertilization, which is called self-pollination. Pollinator plots, and the insects and animals they support, help sustain valuable, healthy ecosystems.