As every wildlife team member knows, water is one of the four required components of habitat. Much of the United States is facing record high temperatures and drought conditions this summer. In addition to worrying about the corn crop, you may also be concerned about your wildlife habitat projects.
Although native plants are adapted to local conditions, including drought, they may need a little help during a severe drought. If your area is not under water restrictions, you could provide supplemental water to your native plantings. Try to reuse water that would be thrown out, such as melted ice from the cafeteria, and avoid watering during the hottest hours of the day, when the water can evaporate rapidly before reaching the plant roots. Using mulch in your pollinator garden will also help prevent evaporation and ensure that water is available to produce nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
A water feature such as a bird bath will attract birds and provide a place for them to drink and bathe. Placing a tray of fruit or creating a mud puddle near a pollinator garden can attract butterflies and provide them with sugar and minerals.
One way to ensure that water is available for your habitat projects in the future is to collect rainwater with a rain barrel. Many cooperative extension offices and county environmental departments offer rain barrel workshops or low-cost rain barrels.
During a drought, ponds can dry up and the remaining water may become stagnant. To avoid algal blooms and fish kills, contact your county cooperative extension office to determine your pond’s oxygen levels and if aeration is needed.
And remember, drought is a natural process, and most animals are able to adapt and survive.