WESTPORT, CT — Many Fairfield County homeowners are concerned about the environmental risks and consequences of a shrinking supply of pollinating insects here and elsewhere in the world. They are also confused, however, about what they should do in their own yards and gardens to counteract the problem, according to a new “Pollinator Fears and Facts Survey” released by the Aspetuck Land Trust.
The decline of wild bees and other insects that pollinate fruits and vegetables places $577 billion of annual crop production at risk around the world, according to a United Nations Sustainable Development report released in May by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report warns "that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely." https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/
More than half of the 311 survey participants of Aspetuck Land Trust members and supporters said they were open to planting more native plants to attract birds, butterflies and insects. About one out of three respondents said they favored using natural herbicides and pesticides instead of traditional chemicals, said David Brant, Executive Director of ALT, an open space conservation group that has protected more than 1,800 acres in Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport since its founding in 1966.
“But 51 percent of survey participants said they didn’t know what to do or how to start. Nearly a third feared the costs would be too expensive. We believe this means our land trust has to grow and become more of a best practices land education and stewardship organization as well as maintaining our land acquisition and conservation focus. Doing both simultaneously is the key to protecting the beauty and ecological health of our region,” Brant added.
Numerous government funded studies have found that habitat loss, land degradation and the loss of native vegetation to roadways, manicured lawns, non-native plant gardens, pesticides and other challenges threaten the quantity and quality of pollinating insects. Pollinators such as bees are essential for the health of all flowering plants including most food crops.
To increase the chances for helpful pollination, Brant recommended homeowners:
- plant more native plants—an important part of the food web that sustains native insects, birds and mammals;
- rethink your lawn – traditional lawns may be decorative for some people but they provide little or no resources for enhancing nature and biodiversity;
- reduce pesticide and herbicide use – overuse of these products are reported to have been a major factor in reducing helpful insects, like native bees, needed for pollination.
“Unlike some other global problems, the good news is homeowners and gardeners of all kinds are in an easier position than they may realize to meaningfully address this problem locally. ALT also has hired a landowner engagement specialist who is available for educational events and who will be directing native landscape demonstration projects to demonstrate eco-friendly practices homeowners can adopt. We wanted to listen to homeowners and understand their attitudes, opinions and gardening practices,” said Brant.
Additional findings in the Aspetuck Land Trust Pollinator Fears and Facts Survey indicate:
- Most landowners have multi-use yards with a 84% saying they have a place to observe birds, butterflies and other wildlife, 85% have flower beds or vegetable gardens and more than half have a large lawn and a place for children or pets to play
- About half of the respondents use a lawn or landscaping service and the remainder don’t
- Some 35% of respondents are using a mix of organic and conventional pesticides and herbicides
- About six out of ten respondents said they would welcome information from ALT at workshops and educational materials on supplies, and plant choices
- A third said they wanted someone to come to their house and tell them where to start
Regarding the ongoing conflict of having a perfect manicured lawn versus a more sustainable imperfect lawn, one survey participant observed:
“The mentality that a weed free lawn is best needs to be changed but things like grubs need to be controlled because no one wants their lawns to be wiped out.”
Yet another commented that “my neighbors need to know they don’t need to have perfect weed free lawns.”
For more information about what homeowners can do in their own yards visit: https://www.aspetucklandtrust.org/green-corridor-vision
For the 2016 IPBES assessment report summary on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production go to: https://www.ipbes.net/system/tdf/spm_deliverable_3a_pollination_20170222.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=15248
The Aspetuck Land Trust (ALT) is a local non-profit land conservation organization founded in 1966 to preserve open space in the towns of Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton. ALT preserves provide passive recreation and educational opportunities for people to learn about and enjoy nature, while preserving the flora and fauna and rural characteristics of local communities. ALT maintains 44 trailed nature preserves and other conservation-only properties on over 1,800 acres of land. More than 1,000 area members support the organization through annual membership contributions. For more information visit www.aspetucklandtrust.org