Tall grass and flowers on I-76 might help food supply

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KEENESBURG, Colo. - All along Interstate 76 -- from Denver, past the Plains, to 200 miles away to the Cornhusker State -- there’s a buzz that’s beginning to beckon from the fringes of the freeway.

And it starts with a sea of sunflowers.

“I was thrilled, said the Butterfly Pavilion’s Mary Ann Colley, an entomologist who’s also the Pavilion’s Vice President of Science and Conservation. “There’s not a lot of attention pollinators get.”

Now the bees, butterflies, bugs and more are getting a lot of attention.

The pollinators suck the nectar from the male part of the flowers and pass it along to the female part of the same or another flower to help the plants reproduce.

The problem is the pollinators aren’t procreating. In fact, they’re dying.

Some reports have said the pollinators have declined 90 percent in the last two decades, mostly because the flowers that feed them are fading away as cities grow.

“When we don’t have lots of wildflowers or forests to support them, they don’t have anything to eat,” Colley said.

Now The Butterfly Pavilion, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Pollinator Network and more want to change that.

They’ve named I-76 the Pollinator Corridor.

CDOT won’t mow more than 15 feet off the freeway from April through September. Plus, in October, volunteers will starting seeding the sides of the highway near Nebraska..

“When we lose the bee, we lose a lot,” said Marc Arnusch, a Keenesburg farmer. “So we can’t afford to have these populations reduced any more than they have been. And it takes efforts by everyone.”

Arnusch’s fields don’t need pollinators, but he’s still careful about where he sprays herbicides to protect the bugs and bees.

“For a lot of produce crops we have in this state, cantaloupes, melons peaches, apples, we need the bee,” Arnusch said.

That’s the same bee that pollinates $15 billion worth of crops in this country every year.

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