Resolution for pollinator-friendly practices

July 9, 2023

North Salem recently passed a resolution we all can cheer for, one that promotes pollinator-friendly landscape practices. With the word “pollinator” flung around a lot these days, let’s dig deeper into the superpowers of these non-humans or, better yet, these more-than-humans.

In springtime all kinds of winged wildlife are looking for nourishment. Many are returning from long migrations or winter hibernation. Some have hopefully enjoyed the cover of fallen leaves and woodland debris in your yards. As days grow longer, the sun soars higher in the sky, and color from flowers and tree blossoms perk up our landscape, insects, bees, bats, butterflies and birds are eager to meet the day, just as we are.

While beautiful blooming trees and other plants are eye candy for us, they do have ulterior motives: they want to thrive, carry on and have progeny; it’s an evolutionary advantage to reproduce. That’s where the pollinators come in. Many plants use visual and other sensual cues to attract flying friends—with their showy sepals or petals and seductive scents and attractive color patterns. For instance, plants with red or yellow flowers tend to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bats are attracted to white, green and purple flowers. Bees are attracted to bright white, yellow and blue flowers and pleasant smells. During a flower visit, these pollinators brush against the flower's reproductive parts, depositing pollen from flower to flower. The plant uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. To be specific, the pollen grain germinates and grows in a floral tube, or pistil, that is connected to the ovule, that’s the unfertilized seed. Once fertilization takes place, the seed and fruitlet grow. Flowers also produce nectar as a reward for pollination. Nectar is produced in the glands of plants called nectaries. Some flowers even feature nectar guides that are specific to particular pollinators.

Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators. Without them, we wouldn’t have apples, strawberries, blueberries, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, or pumpkins, to name a few foods we enjoy. And life flourishes by reciprocity: pollinators cannot survive without pollen for protein and nectar for energy from these plants.

According to the Environmental Leaders Learning Alliance (ELLA), the umbrella organization to which North Salem's Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) belongs, New York State has about 450 wild pollinator species. They say that “these small but mighty workers support the state’s more than 7 million acres of agricultural land.” When you hear that bees and butterflies are disappearing, that’s because they may lose their food sources when land is developed, pesticides and environmental contaminants kill them, or invasive plants push out the plants -  particularly native ones - that have sustained them.

Native plants have a special kinship with pollinators. Native species are indigenous to a region, having been here before European settlement, and have developed natural resistance and sustainability. What’s more is that they evolved together with the wildlife living in the same habitat. For example, the flowering Dogwood tree (Cornus florida) is native to Eastern North America along with the insects, birds, and mammals native to our forests. It supports an entire food web. It is host to the Spring Azure Butterfly, and its berries ripen when songbirds are fueling up for migration. Conversely, the Japanese dogwood (Cornus kousa) evolved in Asia with its own unique fauna so it’s not a host to any North American butterflies and its large berries don’t feed any wildlife here.

So what does a “pollinator-friendly” landscape mean for you and your backyard? Think like a pollinator: you seek a safe and abundant habitat to forage, especially ones with native plants; you try to stay clear of pesticides that poison your food; you avoid yards that have an abundance of lawn, which is a wasteland for your nutritional needs, unless there are scrumptious dandelions; and you hang out where there’s easy picking, a continuous corridor of food supply, allowing you to fly freely and refuel— a pollinator pathway!

Thanks to the effort of North Salem's Conservation Advisory Committee, written by member Andrea Good, encouraged by Councilman Martin Aronchik and unanimously passed by the Town Board, we have a new and noteworthy pollinator-friendly landscaping resolution (Resolution #143-23) and it means the Town of North Salem is on the National Pollinator Pathway website, where you can find lots of resources. 

The Town Board of the Town of North Salem recognizes and supports the following pollinator-friendly landscape practices:

    1. Reduce mowed lawn size where it is reasonable, safe, and feasible and encourage pollinator-friendly plants and landscaping practices.
    2. Protect and enrich soils by limiting or eliminating the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and treated mulch where possible
    3. Encourage residents and businesses to follow best practices for garden clean-up, provide habitats for pollinators and soil nourishment and regeneration
    4. Allow the Town of North Salem to be listed on the national Pollinator Pathways’ website (a nationwide educational resource that promotes pollinator-friendly best practices for residential and commercial landscaping and yard management)