On a lazy August morning, a steady breeze turns the rotors of wind generators rising into the blue sky above the prairies near Amarillo. The lumbering orbit of the giant blades spanning more than a football field drives generators that feed power to the plains along a hearty transmission network.
Cars bustle like bees along a busy freeway as the eco-friendly power travels to communities near and far; and behind the semi-trucks, running of errands and taking kids to school a multitude of insects are hard at work, moving from nectar source to nectar source: plant-to-plant and crop-to-crop.
One of the great benefits of their feeding frenzy is the transfer of pollen, a critical step in plant reproduction and especially critical in producing food for humans. Pollination must take place to yield seeds. This adds significance to how Xcel Energy manages its miles of right-of-way for power lines.
“A common maintenance practice is to remove invasive woody plants like mesquite,” said David Wall, program manager for Vegetation Management at Xcel Energy – New Mexico and Texas. “This makes it easier for us to inspect and maintain lines.”
The clearing of invasive trees and shrubs also means more sunlight from above and water in the soil below.
“We provide the right conditions for native plants to thrive,” Wall said, “and the restored native setting improves the habitat for insects, brids, mammals and reptiles.”
Awareness of the critical need for healthy insect populations has risen with reports of key pollinator population declines.
“It is great to know that Xcel Energy is actually providing mile after mile of the right conditions for many pollinators to survive and thrive,” Wall said.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife is sponsoring a 10-day Pollinator Blitz Oct. 7 through 16. Visit their website for a host of fun outdoor activities for all ages, and return to the site to report your results.
In the north Texas Panhandle, the Amarillo Botanical Gardens is participating in the Pollinator Blitz as part of its annual PumpkinFest Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Going wild: Flowers of the common evening primrose open in the evening and close shop by noon. The roots are edible and the seeds are important as bird feed.
The much maligned wasp does some good pollinating wild snow on the mountain.
The transmission right-of-way offers habitat for native plants that form the foundation for a lively ecosystem.
Sunflowers brighten the day of sorts of bees. Pollinators come in thousands of forms and include bees, wasps, ants, a variety of flies, butterflies, moths, flower beetles and the occasional bat, bird and reptile.