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Protecting Pollinators


Brown Belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis) on False Indigo (Baptisia australis) at Clark Botanic Garden

Read the information below on how to help pollinators and then click HERE to take the Town's Pollinator Pledge, where you can pledge to take actions to help them in your landscape! The pledge can be taken by any property owner that maintains landscaping, including residents, schools, businesses, places of worship, and non-profits.

June 21-27, 2021 is Pollinator Week! Click HERE to read the Town's proclamation!

What are pollinators?

Did you know that native insects are vital to the pollination and reproduction (producing fruit and seeds) of flowering plants, including wildflowers, trees, garden plants and cultivated crops?  When you hear the word pollinator you may think of honey bees. Although honey bees are important in agriculture, they are not native to the United States and originally come from Europe. Native insect pollinators include native bees like bumble bees, mining bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees, butterflies, moths, flies like flower flies, wasps and beetles. Non-insect pollinators include bats (although we don’t have any bat pollinators on Long Island) and birds like hummingbirds, as well as some reptiles, amphibians and other mammals. Bees are known as the most numerous, effective and important pollinators since most females collect pollen for their offspring and have special structures for carrying it, making them better at holding onto pollen and transferring it from one flower to another.

Pollinators in Trouble

Many native pollinator species worldwide have been in decline over the last few decades and several species of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) were designated as High-Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need in New York’s State Wildlife Action Plan.  The rusty patched bumble bee was even listed as an endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2017. The monarch butterfly has declined by 90 percent within the last 20 years (click here for more information on helping monarchs).  These losses are attributed mostly to habitat loss and pesticide use. In December 2020, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that the monarch butterfly being listed on the Endangered Species Act is warranted, but precluded. This means that while the monarch should be listed as threatened or endangered the FWS doesn't have the resources to list it now due to other species waiting to be listed that are of higher priority. This means it is more important than ever that we take actions to help this declining species. 

What can you do to help?

Plant native plants:

Pollinators need plants that they evolved with, meaning that they need the plants that historically lived in this geographic area and can tolerate our climate, weather and soils. Planting a pollinator garden or even a container (if you’re short on space) with native plants that contain nectar and pollen will provide resources that bees, butterflies, flies and other pollinators need to feed themselves and their young. These plants also provide food for birds like berries and seeds as well as insects, which 90% of birds use to feed their chicks. Native plants are also host plants for local butterfly and moth species. For example monarch larvae feed only on milkweed, while black swallowtail larvae will feed on plants in the carrot family (carrots, parsley, alexanders).

Click here for a list of native plants to incorporate into your yard! Also, this website is a great resource which allows you to search for plants native to our area as well as where they can be purchased: https://www.audubon.org/native-plants

Click here to learn where you can see native plants in the Town's parks.

 Click here for more information and to register for the free Native Plant Gardening Workshop offered by the Town.

Reduce or Eliminate Pesticide Use:

Pesticides include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and other chemicals that kill any type of pest. Herbicides, fungicides and especially insecticides have been shown to have negative effects on insects like pollinators. Insecticides can do anything from changing the normal behavior of insects to killing them. Be especially aware of plants sold in stores or nurseries that may have been treated with neonicotinoids. These insecticides are systemic which means they infiltrate every part of the plant including nectar and pollen. Research has shown these can do a lot of harm to bees by altering their abilities to fly, forage, reproduce and fight off disease. Spraying for mosquitoes will likely kill pollinators and other beneficial insects as well. Instead try to eliminate standing water or use mosquito dunks, which kill their larvae without harming other animals. Killing insects also harms birds who rely on them for food. Be careful when using herbicides and fungicides as well. Research has also shown that they may have negative effects on bee health. 

Provide Nesting Habitat:

Many bees nest in cavities like holes in trees or in bare patches of soil in the ground. Providing areas of your yard without mulch or leaving an old tree stump can help bees to find nesting space. Also, if you wait until the spring to cut back perennial plants (instead of the fall) bees can use hollow stems for nesting. Leaving fallen leaves on your landscape is also helpful as many insects overwinter and nest underneath leaf litter. Visit this website to find out more about creating nesting habitat for bees: https://xerces.org/enhancing-habitat-for-native-bees/

Provide Water:

You can offer pollinators a place to drink by filling a shallow bird bath with gravel or creating a muddy patch in the corner of your yard.

Reduce outdoor lighting:

Artificial light, especially at night, causes wildlife to change its normal behavior. This light interferes with migratory birds, amphibians, and insects, like pollinating moths. Some ways to avoid this are using light fixtures that are "full cut off" or "fully shielded," which means no light is visible from above, using amber colored bulbs in outdoor light fixtures, which are not as attractive to insects, and using motion sensor lights so they are not on all of the time.

Participate in Community Science:

The Town has been taking part in the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey (ESNPS) since 2019. This project created by the NY Natural Heritage Program in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation aims to determine the conservation status of a wide array of native insect pollinators throughout New York. The Town surveys for pollinators by taking pictures of bees, flies, butterflies, moths and beetles that are seen at Clark Botanic Garden and some of its other parks where pollinator gardens were created. Then these are submitted to the ESNPS on iNaturalist. You can participate by taking photos of pollinators and submitting them to the project too!

Click here for more information on the project. 

Click here to see the Town's iNaturalist page with all of the observations made at Town parks!

There are many community science projects involving pollinators that need volunteers. Visit this site to find out how to participate: xerces.org/community-science

Share Your Actions:

If you have created any type of pollinator garden or habitat for pollinators we would love if you could share it with the Monarch Joint Venture's Monarch Conservation Efforts Map. You can view the locations of all of the Town's pollinator plantings on this map as well. It is interactive so you can see what actions are being taken to help pollinators, like the monarch butterfly, around the country.

For more information visit:

National Wildlife Federation- NWF.org

Xerces Society- Xerces.org

Pollinator Partnership- Pollinator.org

Empire State Native Pollinator Survey- NYNHP.org/Pollinators

Monarch Conservation in North Hempstead- NorthHempsteadNY.gov/Monarchs

Long Island Native Plant Initiative- LINPI.org

 

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