Kathleen Renowden 2

Kathleen Renowden in her pollinator garden at her home in the town of Delavan. (Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News)

FONTANA — “I don’t know where the bees are,” said Kathleen Renowden, a retired nurse who lives near Sutter Avenue in the town of Delavan.

She said her pollinator garden should have been buzzing with hundreds, if not thousands of bees. But the garden is silent. Conspicuously absent are bumble bees, she said.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy is sponsoring a Pollinator Hike and Prairie Walk from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 27 to draw attention to the declining populations of pollinating insects, especially bees and butterflies.

Renowden’s garden will be the first stop in the walk.

The Geneva Lake Conservancy wants to ensure that the declining bee and butterfly populations can find healthy habitat in Walworth County by encouraging landowners to plant pollinator gardens on their property, said Karen Yancey, conservancy director.

The second stop on the pollinator walk will be the 100-acre restored prairie at White River County Park.

Pollinator gardens are designed to attract bees and other pollinating insects, said Renowden, who has been a gardener for about 40 years.

Renowden has turned her yard into a haven for pollinators using more than 140 native plant species and a total of 170 plant species overall. It covers about 4,000 square feet of her 140-by-65-foot lot.

The garden provides a continual supply of pollen and nectar for hungry bees and butterflies from early spring to late fall and is certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

The loss of insects would have a devastating impact on the food chain.

According to the UW-Extension, about three-fourths of the world’s major food crops need or benefit from animal pollination.

Part of the lack of bee and butterfly activity this year may have been the unusually cool and wet spring and early summer, Renowden said. The cool weather slowed the growth of flowers and plants that bees like to visit.

With warmer weather now predicted, Renowden said she expects that the pollinating activity in her garden should increase in time for the tour.

Renowden said it’s easy to create a pollinator garden, and she will hand out a guide to those who want to try as well.

Basically, the garden should have 10 different kinds of plants, three species of each. The mix should be at least 70 percent native species, although non-native plants can be added, if they attract bees.

“It’s important to have the natural species,” Renowden said. “If people plant non-native plants, the pollinators don’t go for them.”

Gerri Green, also of Delavan, helped organize the pollinator tour.

Green said she became alarmed at the decline in the pollinator population.

“Obviously, it’s a loss of habitat,” Green said of the decline. And there’s been an increase in the use of pesticides and herbicides that sicken and kill pollinators who come in contact with them, Green said.

She said the creation of pollinator gardens can help to preserve the population of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. She said she wants to educate as many people as possible about creation of pollinator gardens.

“They provide nesting sites and habitat,” Green said.

The cost of the pollinator tour is $10, not including lunch. For more information, go to the conservancy website at www.genevalakeconservancy.org or call (262) 275-5700.

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.