Ameren Pollinator Project

    By Suzanne Vanderhoef

     In the middle of rural Illinois is an open field filled with native wildflowers and other plants that attract pollinators…butting up against a power sub-station.

    Surprisingly, that was part of the plan.

    Ameren has been planting native pollinator-friendly plant for more than a decade. One of the focuses is trying to attract monarch butterflies, which are on the verge of being classified as an endangered species.

    “When you are managing for monarchs, you help other pollinators like native bees, the honeybees that are around, pollinating flies, wasps, beetles, and there are a lot of pollinators out there” explains Jennifer Queen, Ameren Environmental Scientist. “And when you are catering to all that insect biodiversity, supporting birds, small animals, all the other animals that eat those things, so we’re having a great effect throughout the food chain, foodweb, the local ecosystem.”

    In addition to providing a safe haven for pollinators, this type of project also has another benefit: it helps manage stormwater. Many native plants have much longer root systems than the plant is tall, so they can cut through the soil and create a more absorptive surface for rainwater to keep if from rolling off into storm sewer drains and contributing to localized flash flooding.

    And, Qeen says individuals don’t have to have hundreds of acres to make a difference. They can do it in their own backyards.

    “You don’t need a whole lot of species to get going in your garden to be able to provide a positive benefit to monarch butterflies and other pollinators. If you have just a little triangle in the back of you already, not sure what to plant or maybe you’re looking for a different garden idea or you want to plant even a mailbox garden just in the front of your property, you can put it anywhere where you have, you know enough sun, you can get water to it and start your native plants.”