Giving Back: Pollinator Pathway

Two bees pollinating on a flower

How four area organizations are working to establish pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in our community. 

What is Pollinator Pathway?

The project, which emerged from the Hudson to Housatonic (H2H) Regional Conservation Partnership, works with landowners to create pesticide-free passageways and native-planted habitats from the Housatonic River to the Hudson River. These help pollinators—bees, butterflies, other insects and hummingbirds—thrive. “Galvanized by efforts of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust, the Norwalk River Watershed Association (NRWA) and other H2H partners, Pollinator Pathway was inspired by the efforts and research of Sarah Bergmann in Seattle, WA,” says Donna Merrill, the co-founder of the local Pollinator Pathway and executive director of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust. In collaboration with over 50 land trust and conservation groups in the H2H network, Pollinator Pathway is a story of communities banding together. Why is this crucial? More than 30 percent of our food grows due to pollinators’ work. Pollinator populations—most notably bees and monarch butterflies—have recently declined due to pesticide use and habitat loss. 

And yet there’s hope. According to monarchjointventure.org, this year the eastern monarch butterfly population is expected to be 144 percent larger than last year and higher than it’s been in over a decade. “We can thank the dedication of municipalities, local farmers and gardeners, and initiatives like Pollinator Pathway for contributing to increasing numbers of monarchs,” says Kara H. Whelan, vice president of the Westchester Land Trust.

Here’s what four area organizations are doing in order to further the important mission of Pollinator Pathway. 

Greenwich Audubon Center 

“Planting for birds and pollinators is a big passion for Audubon,” says Katherine Blake, the bird-friendly communities manager. “Through our Plants for Birds Program, we are committed to inspiring people to create habitat for birds right in their communities, while creating beautiful green spaces for people to enjoy. By planting for birds, communities also create habitat for other wildlife—such as pollinators. This is why we love the Pollinator Pathway Project and the enthusiasm that is spreading!” Audubon Connecticut has many resources to help those interested in planting for birds and pollinators. At their four nature centers (in Sharon, Southbury, Stratford and Greenwich) visitors will find pollinator and bird demonstration gardens, knowledgeable staff, native plant sales and information on native plants. ct.audubon.org

Westchester Land Trust 

“The pollinator pathway program serves as a good reminder of how connected we all are and demonstrates the tremendous impact we can have if we join together for a common cause,” says Whelan. “Westchester Land Trust has worked with many towns from conceptualizing pathway routes to assisting landowners on the pathway who want to learn about protecting their land.” They are incorporating pollinator pathway themes into their popular “Grow to Share!” farm volunteer days at their Bedford Hills headquarters. These weekly garden sessions are open to all. Volunteers will help grow food for their neighbors in need, while witnessing pollinators in action. westchesterlandtrust.org

Greenwich Botanical Gardens

“In celebration of Greenwich Botanical Gardens’ (GBC) involvement with this project we have planted a pollinator garden on the Montgomery Pinetum grounds that includes zizia, asclepias, helenium and asters,” says Lisa Beebe, director of horticulture. “These plants are native and deer resistant and great choices for the home gardener. This garden and all of Montgomery Pinetum are open to the public.” The GBC is supporting Pollinator Pathway in various other ways, including having lectures on invasive plants and then having attendees get some hands-on experience by removing these species, and by selling pollinator garden kits designed to support and bring awareness to this initiative. “We weave Pollinator Pathway into our programing with students, scout groups and community events. One example is that we gave away Milkweed seedlings at the Cos Cob Library Earth Day Event,” says Meg McAuley Kaicher, GBC board president. “The importance of collaboration amongst our town’s environmental non-profits has not only allowed us to have a greater collective impact in public space, but [also] has enabled us to share best practices with each other and the community at large.” greenwichbotanicalcenter.org

Greenwich Land Trust

Greenwich Land Trust helps support pollinator projects through its Seed-to-Seed initiative, dedicated to restoring native plants to the local landscape, plant propagation and habitat restoration. Each year, land trust staff and volunteers collect seeds from its preserves, propagate them in the greenhouse in winter and early spring, and then return them to the landscape. 

According to Greenwich Land Trust Executive Director Will Kies, more than 500 swamp milkweed, whitetop aster, green cone flowers and other seedlings will be planted on GLT’s Lapham Preserve and in the wildflower meadow at the Mueller Preserve this spring.“Pollinators have evolved with native plants, which are best adapted to the local ecosystem, climate, and soils,” explains Kies. “We can all do our part to support pollinators by creating pollinator-friendly landscapes and protecting open space.” gltrust.org   

Butterfly sitting on a flower

WHAT YOU CAN DO
1.Don’t use pesticides.
2.Consider organic fertilizer, or use your lawn clippings instead of chemicals as fertilizer.
3.Plant native species to the area – they will attract beneficial insects and also get rid of pests at the same time.
4.Go to pollinator-pathway.org for more suggestions and to find your town’s pollinator pathway information.