Native Plants and Local Pollinators

How You Can Help Easton Pollinators Flourish and Protect the Local Food Web

“No farms, no food” is a bumper sticker that most of us have seen. It may be time for a new slogan to accompany it: “No pollinators, no farms.” On those occasions when we have spared the subject any thought, most of us have simply assumed bees and other insects would always be around to pollinate the plants we rely on for food. That may not be the case anymore.

Honeybee colony collapse has become a staple of the news over the past decade. However, other less well-known insect species are under similar pressure while receiving little notice in the popular press. These other species play a similarly important role in pollinating both our food crops and our wild flora. 

We won’t go into the details here and now — there are numerous resources online better able to detail the importance of our native pollinators and the pressures they face today (see the list of references at the end of this article).  In short, the problem is caused by pesticides, the destruction of native plants vital to local pollinators and the habitat to support them, and the proliferation of invasive plant species that crowd out natives without providing for the life cycle needs of local pollinators.

Instead, we intend to describe some local efforts underway to help pollinators flourish. These are efforts that you can become a part of and help in an important way. 

Those of us who live in Easton know it is a special place, where people have stayed closer to nature than is the norm in surrounding Fairfield County. It is no surprise that two important pollinator preserving initiatives have found fertile ground in Easton. 

Aspetuck Land Trust Green Corridor and Easton Pollinator Pathway

The Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT) has embarked on an ambitious project to create a “Green Corridor.” The six-town Green Corridor is a massive landscape vision that folds in all species, all land, all water, all air; a diverse landscape that will get more vibrant only when we each make a small change in our yards.

This Green Corridor will connect the protected land trust preserves, water company land, rivers, reservoirs, and neighborhoods that flow from the coast of Westport and Fairfield, through Weston, Easton, and Wilton, and connect to the pristine northern lands of Redding, allowing for a free flow of movement of native wildlife through land preservation and land stewardship. 

The Northeast Pollinator Pathway initiative connects towns from the Hudson to the Housatonic to provide contiguous, ecologically sound steppingstones for native pollinators across the northeast.  The Pollinator Pathway project is now in over 95 towns, including Easton, with the goal of helping people establish pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects and wildlife in our own yards, open spaces and farms.

So, back to our call for action — what can you do to help? You can establish pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for pollinating insects and wildlife in your own yard with a few small changes to the way you approach your land care. 

First, learn about our local pollinators and the plants they depend on. Register for and attend the  “Native Pairings” Zoom webinar on Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m.
https://www.aspetucklandtrust.org/events/2020/2/29/native-pairings-from-earth-to-sky-how-soil-and-native-plants-will-save-the-earthone-yard-at-a-time. 

Then visit the Easton Pollinator Pathway website to browse and read some of the resources there: https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/easton

Now that you are armed with the appropriate knowledge, purchase some sustainably grown native plants local to our Easton ecoregion and start your own pollinator garden (read about the EcoType Project on the Easton Pollinator Pathway site). A great place to do this is Aspetuck Land Trust’s first native plant sale. Garden plans will be provided for how to incorporate your native plants, shrubs and trees into your yard. https://www.aspetucklandtrust.org/plant-sale-info. This online native plant sale runs through June 1 with pre-ordered scheduled pickup in Easton at Gilbertie’s farm on June 6 and 7.  

Note that there are other local growers that are cultivating and selling appropriate local species. Visit https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/where-to-buy-native-plants

So, what’s in it for you, aside from helping to restore native habitat to safeguard our food system and save the planet? When your yard is healthy enough for pollinators, it will attract the birds, which feed on the caterpillars, and open up a virtual Noah’s ark of visitors whose very presence will make your yard more biodiverse.  

A more biodiverse yard is healthier for you. A balanced food chain in your yard means less ticks, less mosquitos, less rodents, and is certainly much more interesting to observe.  Native trees and plants are critical sources of food and nesting for wildlife, with oaks leading the pack by hosting over 500 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. For instance, these caterpillars are the ONLY source of food for baby chickadees, requiring 6,000-9,000 of these protein-packed larvae for each chick to grow to adult as discovered by Dr. Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware.

Our native insects and animals have evolved with our native plants, and they depend on each other for survival.  A yard without native plants is a yard with very few birds and butterflies. Pollinators are just the beginning of what we will see in our own backyards, but they are the charismatic and important indicator species that open the door to a more beautiful, connected landscape.  If your yard is healthy enough to support pollinators because of positive changes that YOU have made, it will be healthy enough for birds, wildlife, your pets, and your family! 

This is the first in a series of articles by Jean Stetz-Puchalski and Mary Ellen Lemay talking about the Easton Pollinator Pathway, the Aspetuck Land Trust Green Corridor, native plants and the pollinators that depend on them.

Resources:

ALT Green Corridor: https://www.aspetucklandtrust.org/green-corridor-vision

Easton Pollinator Pathway: https://www.pollinator-pathway.org/easton

Pollinator decline: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollinator_decline

Book of note: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants by Douglas W. Tallamy

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