Pollinator Prairie

Welcome to the Pollinator Prairie - The Transformation of the Former Chemical Commodities, Inc. Site

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The site where you are standing was once the Chemical Commodities, Inc. (CCI) Site, and it was operated as a chemical brokerage and recycling facility. During its 38 years of operation, CCI bought chemicals from dozens of companies and government agencies. Numerous companies, including Rocketdyne, which was briefly part of The Boeing Company, shipped wastes to the site for recycling during the 1960s. Over time, contamination from chemicals shipped to CCI for treatment were spilled or leaked into soils and groundwater, requiring a comprehensive remediation program. Over the last 15 years, Boeing has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the local community, and on behalf of the responsible parties, to advance cleanup progress at the site. An important milestone was achieved in the summer of 2011 with construction completed at the site and the final cleanup remedy put in place. By doing this, Boeing accomplished all of the cleanup requirements set forth by the EPA. Another milestone was achieved in May 2012 as the site was returned to the community for reuse. Boeing, working with the local Community Advisory Group, has dedicated its resources and enlisted expertise from Monarch Watch, Pollinator Partnership, Wildlife Habitat Council and others to create an ecological habitat. The habitat consists of mostly native plants that provide pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies, especially monarch butterflies, sources of food, shelter and safe areas for breeding.

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Planting Lists

If you are interested in learning about the individual gardens and downloading the individual planting lists, click on the images below.

Bee Garden

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The plants in this garden represent mostly native Kansas wildflowers that attract bees. Bees are essential pollinators. Most are solitary (live alone) while others are social and live in colonies (honey bees and bumble bees). Pollination by bees results in the production of fruits, nuts, berries, seeds and foliage that are food for birds, mammals, millions of insects and ourselves. Bees pollinate many different kinds of wildflowers and flower shapes. Take a look at the flower shapes you see in the garden. Some are cone-shaped like black-eyed Susan or coneflower (Rudbeckia spp.) and others are tubular like beard-tongue (Penstemon spp.). Smaller bees, like sweat bees, prefer the cone-shaped flowers while larger bees, like bumble bees and carpenter bees, prefer to crawl inside the tubular flowers.

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Leafcutter Bee, Megachile sp.

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees that live alone and not in hives. Leafcutter bees usually nest in hollowed-out dead twigs. They cut semi-circles of leaves that they carry to the nest. The leaves are used to line the nests. They are easy to spot because they carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen.

Bumble Bee, Bombus sp.

Up to 6 species of bumbles bees occur in eastern Kansas. These large bright yellow and black bees are known for buzz pollination, where they grab onto a flower and then buzz their wings until the pollen vibrates out. Plants like tomatoes can only be pollinated this way.

Sweat Bee, Agapostemon sp.

Sweat bees get their name from a unique behavior they have - collecting sweat which they lap up with their tongue (proboscis). Sweat bees, like the majority of bee species, are solitary and build nests either in the ground or in small cavities.

Monarch Garden

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Each fall monarchs migrate to central Mexico where they overwinter in large clusters on trees in the mountains. They return in the spring with the females laying eggs on milkweeds, the only plants on which monarch larvae will feed. At the end of summer, after 3-4 generations, the migration starts again.

Monarchs, like bees, beetles and flies, have four life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis) and adult (butterfly).

While caterpillars need milkweeds to feed on, the adults need nectar for water and energy. To create habitats for monarchs it’s necessary to grow both milkweeds and nectar plants such as asters, coneflowers and joe pye weed.

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Bird Garden

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This garden illustrates two ways that birds and plants interact. Pollination occurs as the birds passively transfer pollen on their bills and feathers from flower to flower in the process of feeding on nectar. Birds also visit plants that have previously been pollinated mostly by bees, and eat the fruits, seeds, and berries that have resulted. Seed-producing plants provide food for finches, sparrows and some songbirds through late summer and in winter when insects are scarce. Berry plants provide food for bluejays, robins and other species through the winter and early spring, particularly when the ground is frozen. Many birds also eat insects.

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American Robin, Turdus migratorius

The American Robin feeds on a variety of foods including worms, insects, and
fruits. At the end of winter, sightings of robins are said to be a sign of spring. Yet, they overwinter in most of the United States.

American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis

These brightly colored birds feed almost exclusively on seeds, particularly those of composites (sunflower relatives). A social species, they sometimes form large flocks as they move through weedy fields feeding on flowers that have gone to seed. They are easily attracted to bird feeders. To attract this species to your garden, allow plants that have gone to seed to remain standing.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is our smallest bird weighing 3.5 grams (less than 2 dimes). This is a solitary species that does not flock or socialize yet migrates in the fall and overwinters in Central America. Although usually seen visiting flowers for sugar-containing nectars, hummingbirds also feed on insects for fats and proteins.

Butterfly Garden

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Butterflies fly great distances between flowers, moving pollen with them and sustaining genetic diversity, even though they are often not as efficient at pollinating as bees. Butterflies prefer tubular flowers that are low in nectar quantity and sugar content but often contain amino acids.

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Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia

Buckeyes arrive in Kansas each spring from Texas. The adults can be common in gardens from May through September. The larvae feed on plants in the plantain and snapdragon families, and the blackish caterpillars can often be found on the long-leafed plantain growing in lawns and gardens.

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes

The Black Swallowtail is a black butterfly with yellow markings on its forewings. Males have yellow on the hindwings as well, while the hindwings of females are distinctly bluish. Adult Black Swallowtails feed on nectar of various flowers, such as milkweed and thistles. The distinctive larvae can be found on parsley, fennel and many other plants in the carrot family.

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

The Red Admiral is a widespread migrant, one of the earliest arrivals each spring from the South and Southwest. They overwinter as adults in the South. Host plants for larvae include stinging nettle, false nettle and pellitory. The caterpillars are easy to find since they use silk to pull a leaf together to make a nest for protection from predators and parasites.

Prairie Grasses and Wildflower Garden

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The plants in this habitat garden are a representation of plants found across Kansas and support many different kinds of pollinators

Habitat gardens, like this one, provide more than a home for pollinators; they filter rainwater, provide a home for other wildlife, prevent invasive species from taking over, support our agricultural systems and provide us with a beautiful space to learn and enjoy nature.

The five prairie grass and wildflower areas on this site are representative of the "tall grass prairie" vegetation that characterized eastern Kansas prior to settlement. Trees were absent except along rivers and the north sides of hills. Periodic fires caused by lighting and sometimes by Native Americans maintained the treeless condition. In some areas the rich soils were so bound with roots that the earliest settlers, lacking trees, made homes from the prairie sod. These structures were known as "soddies."

The grasses in prairies are wind pollinated while the wildflowers are pollinated by bees, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. The foliage, seeds, fruits and berries resulting from this pollination are fed upon by numerous birds, small mammals and insects. Prairies represent complex food webs largely maintained by pollinators.

Regal Fritillary, Spyeria idalia

The Regal Fritillary is an iconic prairie species whose larvae feed on violets found only in undisturbed prairies. Due to the loss of prairies this species is rare or endangered over much of its original range.

Honey Bee, Apis mellifera

At least 90 crop plant species in the U.S. are dependent to some extent on honey bees for pollination. Honey bees alone are responsible for between $1.2 and $5.4 billion each year in agricultural productivity in this country, so it is no wonder that our attention is drawn to their plight. Worldwide, bees and other pollinators are showing disturbing signs of decline that pose a threat to crop production, native vegetation and human welfare.

White-lined Sphinx, Hyles lineata

The White-lined Sphinx migrates north and east from Arizona each spring. Frequently mistaken as hummingbirds due to their rapid flight, these colorful moths are commonly seen in the evening visiting plants with long tubular flowers. The larvae have many color forms and feed on a variety of plants. In the Southwest, Native Americans harvested and dried the larvae for food during the winter months.

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