A breakthrough at Broomfield’s Baseline development may show buzzing bees benefit from beaming plants along bypasses, says Butterfly Pavilion.
New data shows that pollinator districts support more families of pollen-carrying insects. A pollinator district is a community that makes a commitment to have more pollinator-supported habitats, Amy Yarger, horticulture director at the Butterfly Pavilion, explained.
The idea is to build a corridor that pollinators can travel through and visit various plants. That may look like specific plants in road medians or next to sidewalks. This in turn supports both pollinator populations as well as plants throughout the district. At Baseline, they plan to have a 77-acre linear park.
Preliminary data show that the populations have already begun to grow. Yarger said that in 2019 — prior to any construction across the 1100 acres — very few pollinators were found in the survey they conducted. She said the land was dominated by a wheatfield.
In 2019, construction began and Butterfly Pavilion reviewed each new landscape that the developer proposed. Those landscapes could have been streetscapes, medians, parks or natural areas. They made recommendations for designs and plants that supported pollinators, as well as saving water and increasing native plant species.
After repeating the same survey from 2019 in June and September of 2022, they saw new species and families of pollinators. It’s a small increase — eleven to 18 — but Yarger says the results are promising.
“It's just really inspiring because it just shows that if you build it, they'll come,” said Yarger.
After the 2022 legislative session, Governor Jared Polis signed bill SB22-199 on May 27 at the Butterfly Pavilion which would require a study on the challenges associated with native pollinating populations.
The study would be spearheaded by the executive director of the department of natural resources. The results of the study would be submitted to Colorado’s general assembly and the governor, equipped with recommendations on how to solve the problems.
Why it’s working
Each pollinator district uses a rubric to make the area friendlier to pollinators. Factors such as planning and design, soil management, water efficiency and the type of plants all contribute to the final result.
Another component is how educational opportunities are offered to those living within the district and whether they can access materials to learn more.
“How is the community actively encouraging people to learn more about pollinators or giving people the chance to participate in some way? Do you have signs about pollinators or do you have other educational materials about pollinators?” she said.
She noted diverse plants around the area with different ones blooming between spring and fall. Different colors help the insects, too.
To encourage more pollinator-friendly cities, Yarger said municipalities can change their landscaping codes and ordinances to actively promote biodiversity. That may look like lawn replacement, rebates or educational programs.
She pointed to Manitou Springs which is focusing on including pollinator pockets in all of its parks.
Not only do the districts benefit insects and plants, but they also help contribute to community identity.
“Creating a pollinator district really does activate people and get them excited about where they live,” Yarger said. “There's the environmental sustainability piece of it, but also the community pride piece, to live in a place that cares about the planet and the small creatures that do so much for us.”
She said talking with residents is inspiring to her because they boast various facts they learn about pollinators and tell her the actions they’re taking. Residents feel powerful because supporting pollinators is a quick beneficial change they can see the impact they make.
“It's a way of helping people take action in a really positive and hopeful way,” she said.
Yarger emphasized that educating people about pollinators also encourages them to care about the environment. 20 years ago, she never received questions about native bees but now she does.
“People are asking ‘can these plants withstand all of the weather changes that we're seeing because of the changing climate?’ It's become a much more global concern about community, about climate, about sustainability, about equity, and how to make sure that everybody is reaping the benefits of environmental conservation,” she said.