In the past few months there’s been much gloomy news about the state of the planet. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives us 10 years to turn things around (or that’s it for mankind’s long-term prospects on Earth), and the stories about an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ have gained headlines around the globe. We’re losing these creatures at the bottom of the food chain due to habitat loss and pesticide use to the point that 40% of all insect species are in decline and could die out in coming decades, according to a study published in Biological Conservation. It’s all a bit overwhelming for those of us doing our best to help the planet by quitting plastic bags and refusing straws.
But there is something that almost every one of us in suburban New York can do that really could have a meaningful impact. We can help save the pollinators. By supporting the insects, we can help the entire food chain. And by changing our landscaping practices to pollinator-friendly methods we will be doing much more than helping pollinators. ‘Healthy growth captures carbon and cleans our air, as well as supports the birds and the bees,’ says Filippine Hoogland, co-chair of Healthy Yards, an environmental group championing sustainable landscaping practices.
We can make a difference by planting native herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees that the pollinators must have to breed and feed on, halting use of pesticides and herbicides, and reducing leaf blower use (which destroys pollinator habitat).
And communities around the country are responding, getting together in a Pollinator Pathways program. What started in Seattle is now growing fast in the east, spreading from Fairfield County, CT, to northern Westchester and now reaching towns like Irvington, Sleepy Hollow and Pleasantville.
The Great Irvington Land Trust launched a pollinator pathway program last fall and the Pleasantville Garden Club is working hard to launch a pollinator pathway program throughout Mt. Pleasant this spring.
Anyone and everyone can get involved, whether you have a potted plant on a balcony or acres of landscaping. It involves municipalities, business owners and homeowners working together to adopt sustainable landscaping practices.
“In the past 50 years or so we began to plant exotic plants from Asia and forgot about our native plants. Our butterflies and bees cannot thrive on these. If we reduce the size of our lawns to what we actually need for our kids and pets and instead plant native plants that our pollinators can use, we can make a big difference,” says Hoogland. “Science shows us that even converting 10 sq. feet of lawn to pollinator habitat increases the richness of species and can have real conservation value and we know that pollinator plants in pots in urban settings can help too.”