This Pollinator Pathway project is organized by volunteers from town conservation organizations (listed on each town’s page) working together to establish pollinator-friendly habitat and food sources for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinating insects and wildlife along a series of continuous corridors. Most native bees have a range of about 750 meters, so the goal is to connect properties that are no farther apart than that. This project began in 2017 in Wilton, CT. Since then, pathways have been established in over 85 towns in CT and NY and the list keeps growing.
Without pollinators, we can’t feed ourselves. Pollinators fertilize the plants in our yards and parks but also on our farms and orchards. Imported European honey bees are the ones we think of most often, but there are over 349 species of bees native to Connecticut and 416 species native to New York, and they play a vital role in pollinating the plants we rely on in our communities. Pollinator populations are in sharp decline because of pesticide use and loss of habitat. Bee populations, both native and honey bees, have seen sharp declines. Monarch butterflies have declined by 94.6% in the last 20 years, according to the US Wildlife Federation. A recent German study shows a 75% decline in all flying insects in the last 25 years. The threat to pollinators is a threat to us!
Because the Pollinator Pathway “de-fragments” the environment, it benefits our ecosystem as a whole. Our landscape has been chopped up, or fragmented, through urban- and suburban-ization. The problem is, we can no longer support sustainable populations of wildlife in our isolated parks and preserves alone, as Dr. Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware entomologist, argues so eloquently in his book Bringing Nature Home. Luckily, there is a solution. If we begin to manage our own yards organically and with native plantings, we can use them to connect parks and preserves, creating crucial corridors for wildlife. That is the idea behind the Pollinator Pathway.
Why do native plants matter? Our local pollinators have evolved to depend on our local plants. Our caterpillars and bees can’t use trees from China and Japan. The monarch butterfly is a good example as it must have the milkweed plant to survive. Without the milkweed, there will be no monarchs, and we don’t typically put these “weeds” in our yards. They have also been eradicated from fields by farmers, and now the monarch is in danger of extinction.