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Butterfly garden at Pleasant GroveRecently there has been fear among scientists regarding the decline of the bee population. Many cite the loss of pollinators as a devastating blow to the food chain. Without pollinators, like bees, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife. This is why there is concern about how this will affect agriculture. Many experts view hazards in the environment as the cause of the decline.

Insects are the main pollinators, but so are hummingbirds and bats. Wildlife experts are working with communities to combat the problem and build an environment that increases the species of various pollinators. The Lake Monticello Wildlife Committee is teaming up with the Virginia Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists for a program about how we can help increase the pollinating population while building a better environment for them and for ourselves.

“The purpose is to expand the focus on wildlife habitats while supporting pollinators and a diverse population of wildlife,” said master gardener Sue Tepper. She will be one of three presenters, along with master gardener and master naturalist Walter Hussey, and Amber Houk, who will discuss beekeeping.

Hussey will highlight the ongoing effort at Pleasant Grove Park to return 70 acres of previously mowed space to the natural re-establishment of meadows, trees, tree food plots, and wildflowers.

“Returning the wild natural beauty of the meadows included planting borders of wildlife-friendly trees in the hedgerows around the fields. All of the hedgerows connect back to the existing forest, giving wildlife avenues to travel through and around the meadows, while native trees and shrubs provide both food and cover for many wildlife species,” said Tepper.

Tepper explained that with the Rivanna River and adjacent forests and fields, every type of Piedmont Virginia habitat is represented in the park. Over 20 miles of trails run through these habitats, which contain a diverse population of wildflowers, animals and birds. The river habitat hosts river otters, eagles, and ducks, while the untended grassy fields host songbirds, hawks and rabbits. The tree identification trails teach the names of many native Virginia trees while the bluebird nesting trail helps support the reestablishment of this important bird.         

Tepper will talk about the butterfly garden at Pleasant Grove Park, which was created with the support of Carol Heiser of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Will Shaw of the Virginia Native Plant Society as a demonstration of landscaping using native plants.

“The garden’s purpose is to help educate homeowners on the unique alliance between native plants and pollinators while providing examples for creating pollinator-friendly backyard habitats,” she said.

Tepper spoke in detail about the threats in our environment affecting the pollinators and how we can help change it. Pollinators are being threatened by loss of habitat, reduced foraging and nesting options, and invasive or exotic organisms – all of which cause severe ecosystem disruption. Scientists have said that climate change may cause the extinction of some species and force others to shift their range. Pesticides are also directly responsible for killing pollinators, reducing reproduction, and killing the plants they need to survive.

Tepper said there are many ways we can help. Decreasing the amount of lawn areas, choosing sunny areas for flowering plants, and using native plants if possible can all help. Good examples of native plants are milkweed, which attracts butterflies, and sunflowers, which attract bees. To attract pollinators, plant bright-colored flowering plants in clusters. Provide a water source and basking area and above all try to limit pesticide use.

The program will be held in the meeting room of the Fluvanna County Library on Sunday, May 21 at 2:30 p.m. Weather permitting, there will be a field trip to the pollinator garden at Pleasant Grove following the meeting. Bringing snacks is encouraged.