Thanks a Million

A few days ago the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how 14,000 Chicago gardens had been registered with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, contributing to the total of 1,040,000 gardens registered since 2015 when the challenge was launched. Actually, the press release announcing this achievement came out on February 26th, so it’s not exactly breaking news.

7-22 Monarda w bee 3

Even so, I’ll call this an encouraging development. It’s easy to roll one’s eyes over this sort of project. Anyone can register their property as a pollinator garden, even if it’s just a slab of concrete, and nobody is going to check.

And the pollinator crisis won’t be solved without new government policies on things like pesticides and habitat destruction, which means overcoming the resistance of various industries.

7-22 Black Wasp 1

Still, there’s evidence that private gardens can significantly add to pollinator abundance and diversity. And popular education is important for influencing both consumer demand and legislative action.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was sponsored by the National Garden Pollinator Network, which is an alliance of conservation and gardening organizations, along with some government agencies.

2014-09-28 15.39.51 new england aster with metallic green bee

According to the Network, a pollinator garden should:

  • use plants that provide nectar and pollen
  • provide a water source
  • have plenty of sun and protection from the wind
  • create big patches of blooming plants attractive to pollinators
  • have continuous bloom throughout the growing season
  • avoid pesticide use

While the Network encourages native plants, they are not pushed exclusively. In the Chicago Tribune article, spokespeople mention 3 examples of pollinator plants (Aster, Penstemon, and “upright Sedum”), but only 2 of those 3 are native to the Chicago area.

2014-08-23 12.13.47
Giant Swallowtail

The Network’s next focus is to promote the idea that gardens should have at least three “pollinator plants” blooming in each season, and also to encourage participation in citizen science projects that document the health of pollinator populations. I kind of wish they would try for 5 million pollinator gardens, or at least 2 million.

Efforts like these are not the whole answer by any means, but they should certainly be part of the solution. So good for them.

Incidentally, the title to this post comes from the name of a song by (I think) Louis Armstrong. Give it a listen if you like.

23 Comments on “Thanks a Million”

  1. I can’t remember all the details, but there are groups in this area who developed what they call pollinator pathways. Taking into consideration the distance various bees and other insects will travel, they plotted gardens in such a way that the insects could travel from one to another. It was a complex endeavor, with a lot of education and persuasion involved, but businesses and homeowners committed to the project, and they’re having continued success.

  2. Every little bit helps, and we definitely cannot discount the impact that private gardens have on pollinator populations. Fly over most cities, especially the suburb areas and gardens usually dominate the landscape – what difference it would make if everyone took a small section of grass and planted up a few pollinator attracting perennials.

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