Login NowClose 
Sign In to thecouriertimes.com           
Forgot Password
or if you have not registered since 8/22/18
Click Here to Create an Account
Close

Prairie humming with life

1 / 3
According to Dr. Helen Steussy of Henry County, America has lost 90 percent of its bumblebees in the last 20 years and they are more robust pollinators than even the honeybee.
2 / 3
3 / 3
Henry County residents Dr. Helen Steussy and her husband, Tom Williams, planted their first tall grass prairie about 20 years ago. Their prairie is currently “humming” with life, as is evident in this photo of a hummingbird taking a drink from a prairie plant.

The Prairie is humming with life right now. 

From butterflies to bumblebees, from the lilting goldfinch flights to the zooming of the hummingbirds, the full panoply of life fills the tall grass prairie right here in Henry County. And the flowers? Every shade of yellow in the book. And purples. And reds!

And even the grasses amaze. The big bluestem scratches the skies with its turkey foot shaped stalks. The little blue stem creates soft little fountains of cooler blues and greens. Switchgrass carries the most delicate seeds and Indian grass hoists the biggest, richest seed head into the air tempting all the birds to munch on its bundles of nutrients.

Dr. Helen Steussy and her husband, Tom Williams, planted their first tall grass prairie about 20 years ago. It was a big step taking out the old alfalfa field and planting this mixture of native flowers and grasses. But every year this restored habitat becomes richer with life and brings greater joy.

They have hosted hiking clubs and camera clubs, school groups and naturalists, photographers and artists – all appreciating a different aspect of this unique and wonderful ecosystem.

In the spring, Dr. Steussy scans the grasses and surrounding woods for migrating songbirds. So far, she has found at least 106 species of birds. And now, at the peak of the floral show, she is studying the bumblebees that gather nectar from the thousands of flowers that fill their field.

“America has lost 90 percent of its bumblebees in the last 20 years and they are more robust pollinators than even the honeybee,” Dr. Steussy said. “The bumbles are out earlier in the day when it’s still cool. And they still search for nectar in the rain when the honeybees are cloistered in their hives. And some flowers can only be pollinated by the strong buzz-pollination of the larger, more powerful bumblebee wings.”

Dr. Steussy’s hope is to find a remnant population of the rusty-patched bumblebee - an insect that hasn’t been seen in Indiana since 2002 and has now been listed as an endangered species by the United States.

And if the bumblebees weren’t enough, the Monarch butterfly migration has started, and those lovely orange wings are now wafting over the prairie looking for their beloved milkweeds.

Everyone can plant a patch of prairie. Big or small, this collection of native plants brings sustenance to an incredible variety of birds and butterflies. And an amazing sense of joy to the people who care for them.

If you are interested in starting your own prairie, you can email Dr. Steussy at hsteussy@comcast.net and she can give you more details on how to get started.

– Provided by Dr. Helen Steussy, a Henry County resident.