Xerces Goes Island Hopping for Bees

How do you restore a 50-acre native wildflower meadow for bees on an island in the middle of the Columbia River?

It’s simple. Working with the Port of Portland, and seed company Pacific Northwest Natives, we loaded up a barge with a tractor, a truck, a drill seeder, hundreds of pounds of seed, and half a dozen tough farmers, then we floated out to the island and started planting.

Special credit goes to our fantastic crew, contractors, plant ecologist, and pollinator ecologists, who between them can calibrate a 1,000-pound drill seeder, get us unstuck from sandbars, make emergency welds and equipment repairs in the middle of nowhere, and formulate complex seed mixes designed to support dozens of local species of bees and butterflies.

In addition to the seeding done by Tenbusch Farms, Port of Portland staff carefully planted by hand 2,000 camas lily bulbs.

Stay tuned for future updates on this project, and expect a massive wildflower show in spring 2016!

truck reversing onto the barge

All aboard! Reversing onto the barge meant that the vehicles would be able to drive straight off when landing on the island, but care was needed to avoid watery mishaps.

shipping supplies to the island

Everything but the kitchen sink had to be shipped across to Government Island.

hauling supplies to the beach

It was heavy work to haul 1,000 lbs of equipment across the beach.

using the seed drill on the field

Two years of planning and preparation led up to this moment, the first run of the seed drill across a carefully prepared soil.

unexpected repairs

Unexpected repairs interrupted progress.

successfully completing the seed drilling

Full steam ahead! With everything working again, the seed drilling was successfully completed. There’s rain in the forecast for the next few days, so the seed should have good conditions for germination.

The final task: Port of Portland staff planted 2,000 camas lily bulbs.

The final task: Port of Portland staff plant 2,000 camas lily bulbs by hand.


by Eric Lee-Mäder, Pollinator Program Co-Director

All photos by Jim Eckberg, plant ecologist at the Xerces Society.

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