Butterflies on native flowers

To Help Pollinators, Eagan Focuses on Native Plantings and Education

The city places a high priority on our natural environment, just as residents do. While some surrounding communities are joining in on No-Mow May, Eagan has a different approach to helping pollinators. 

No Mow May calls for leaving lawns unmown in the month of May. However, Eagan Water Resources Manager Jenna Olson says this plan might not be the right fit for our community.

The No Mow May campaign began in the United Kingdom, where the bee and plant species — and climate — differ from ours. “A lot of the plants that come up here in the United States are dandelions and invasive weeds,” Olson says. “These are kind of like junk food for bees.” In other words, No Mow May offers an excuse to skip mowing your lawn, but it might not really help pollinators.

About a quarter of the bees in Minnesota specialize in feeding on specific types of native plants, Olson says. These bees aren’t interested in dandelions and other nonnative flowers. 

What does Eagan do instead of No Mow May?

Eagan’s plan, which has been in place for more than a decade, centers on:

  • planting native grasses and plants in parks and green spaces throughout the City, 
  • helping, promoting, or installing rain gardens in public, private, and even at City facilities,
  • adding pollinator-friendly perennials and shrubs to our landscaping whenever we can,
  • avoiding any chemicals that contain neonicotinoids

Education is also a big part of Eagan’s approach. The City supports several free classes for residents to learn more about native plants and plantings for their own properties. We also educate residents through social media campaigns and pamphlets to help people learn what they can do to protect and promote pollinator habitat.

Eagan focuses on promoting native plantings year-round. The rain gardens at City Hall and Cascade Bay are planted with native grasses and wildflowers, and the City is working on a code for new developments to ensure they use native plantings. 

What can you do to help provide pollinator habitat?

Adam Schnaible is Eagan’s forestry maintenance supervisor, and part of his role is maintaining the city’s 26 acres of prairie. He also manages approximately 15 acres of perennial and annual gardens.

“There are a ton of simple things homeowners can do, like incorporating native and pollinator-friendly plants into their landscapes. Another thing is to use some maintenance techniques to help pollinators. While they don’t necessarily look neat and tidy, these are really helpful to pollinators. For example, you can leave woody perennial stems until the late spring rather than cleaning them up in the fall.”

People often remove everything and end up with bare ground, but this removes habitat for pollinators. Letting leaves accumulate provides insulation for nesting pollinators. Most pollination in Minnesota is done by solitary bees, which nest on or in the ground. 

“Building a small brush pile or starting a small compost pile provides a good opportunity for nesting,” Schnaible says.

“Native plant material has a reputation of looking unkempt and weedy, and it is. But that's what these pollinators and insects want. It can be challenging to incorporate that into your manicured lawn space. But over time, you can overcome that perception.”