Interest in pollinators and creating pollinator gardens has increased in recent years as more evidence shows declining populations of many species of bees and butterflies pollinating the plants from which we harvest food.
As habitat for pollinators decreases, population numbers continue to as well. For that reason, many have shown interest in pollinator gardens. These gardens are created specifically to attract pollinators.
One of the first pollinator gardens in the area was planted early last year at the Three Lakes Winery.
Last year, caterpillars soon to become Monarch butterflies were found at the site, proving that it does not take long, or a large patch of land, to have an effect on pollinators.
Three other sites were planted as part of the Roadside Pollinator Project last year as well. Those sites are located at Thunder Lake Marsh, along Highway A and on Military Road.
Plants such as several species of milkweed, sunflowers, black eyed Susans, hair bells and asters, were carefully selected for each site based on the amount of sun the site would get, soil drainage and other factors that may affect plant growth.
As with planting any flower garden, different plants do well in different environments. Baerbel Ehrig, the coordinator for the Roadside Pollinator Project, selected plants and coordinated the efforts to create these pollinator gardens last year.
This year, Ehrig had a new undertaking. She and a group of Al Votis' students from Three Lakes High School created a new pollinator garden near the Three Lakes Fire Department. This was the second year Al Votis' class worked with Ehrig's team. Last year the County A site, as well as a site by the Teaching Drum Outdoor School, was planted by high school students.
"That site is part of the Roadside Pollinator Project between Three Lakes and Oneida County," Ehrig said. "However, this specifically was requested from the Town of Three Lakes. They funded the project. As another bed to continue to add to the pollinator project. That's an exciting thing about that. Last year we didn't have any funds coming from the town."
She said the Three Lakes Road Crew transported compost and mulch for the project. There is also a mowing agreement in place with the town and the highway department for the sites where the pollinator gardens are near the roadways. These mowing agreements allow the plants to grow and be used as habitat for pollinators, rather than to be mowed down, as is often the case.
"That is a major concern," Ehrig said. "They are clearly partners of the project. That makes it unique, that there are so many partners and interest groups helping out with this."
Pollinator gardens are also in place at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School.
There are several beds near the roadside and also a labyrinth which will be part of a healing center the school will be opening soon. (See related story on 5B)
Ehrig said she looks forward to working with the high school and Votis again next year, but would also be interested in working with other youth groups such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts who may be interested in learning more about pollinators or about Bumble Bee Watch, which looks at monitoring the rusty-patched bumble bee, now on the endangered species list. This will be another aspect of pollinator education Ehrig is excited to bring to people who are interested.
More information on the Roadside Pollinator Project can be found on the Oneida County Land and Water Conservation Department website: http:// www.oclw.org/pollinator-project.html.
Beckie Gaskill may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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