Preserving habitat for pollinators one ditch at a time

Patty Moss is on a mission of education in Port Colborne helping to preserve the habitat of pollinators during the summer months.

Port Colborne’s Patty Moss is on a mission of public education trying to get people to help preserve the habitat for pollinators during the summer months.

“It all started because I’m interested in pollination, I grow my own food, I understand the need for it,”  Moss said. “I used monarch butterflies to teach kids about pollinators in the classroom.”

Pollinators include butterflies, bees, beetles, flies, bats, and even some birds.

“In 2011, there were no monarchs that year on my property to collect the larvae. I noticed a monarch laying eggs in the ditch along a road and was collecting the larvae for the classroom,” she said.  “I immediately went to the City of Port Colborne because while I was collecting the larvae, city mowers were coming behind me cutting and the habitat was all gone, all that larvae lost.”

She put together a presentation for council and the City of Port Colborne agreed to a trial area where summer grass cutting would be delayed along Weaver Road, Pinecrest Road, and Cedar Bay Road.

“I’m really just trying to preserve the habitat for the pollinators,” she said.

The city grass cutting is now done only twice in the year in the trial area, late spring and then again in fall, leaving the grass to grow along the roadsides to provided habitat for the pollinators. In the past, it was done three times in the year, the July cut would wipe out the habitat and take the larvae with it.

Since then Moss has been monitoring the areas and she says there is a noticeable increase in the different species of pollinators that are benefitting from the program.

“During this time, I have been knocking on doors and educating the public as to the importance of preserving the habitat,” she said. “Along this road (Pinecrest Rd.) you can see that the residents have grasped on to the idea and have left their ditches to grow.”

According to an article on the Greentumble website, pollinators are important as they are an essential part of the production cycle for plants.

This doesn’t just apply to food but also plants used for the creation of medicines.

An article from the Penn State Department of Agriculture Sciences Department of Entomology says:

Pollinators are necessary for three-quarters of our major food crops

Not every species of plant requires animal-mediated pollination services. For example, wheat is wind-pollinated. However, the majority of crops that we like most to eat and provide most of our nutrition (fruits, vegetables, and nuts) use animal-mediated pollination. Without pollinators, our diets would be severely limited, and it would be more difficult to acquire the variety of vitamins and minerals that we need to stay healthy.

Healthy pollinators and healthy ecosystems

Outside of agricultural systems, approximately 80-95% of the plant species found in natural habitats require animal-mediated pollination. Plants are the foundation of terrestrial food chains. The foliage and/or fruits and nuts that plants make are eaten by herbivores which in turn are hunted by predators. Furthermore, plants provide shelter and nesting habitat for many different animal species. Thus, in order to maintain the diversity of our natural ecosystems, we need healthy pollinator populations to ensure that the next generation of plants will be produced.

~What are pollinators and why do we need them?

The modified grass cutting schedule has been in place for five years and is expanding.

For Moss, her goal right now is education about the importance of the program.

She relayed a story of the comments a resident said on Killaly St. when she was doing a door-knocking campaign to inform people that there would be no summer cut on their street.

“The resident said ‘I’m glad you said something to me because I would probably be pretty upset with the city letting it all go to weeds, but, now that you have explained it to me why the weeds are there, well, there is a whole purpose behind it and I understand it, well, I won’t be mad about it,’” Moss said.

Her next goal is to approach the Niagara Region about their summer mowing schedule.

“Their mowing schedule along Hwy 140, for example, is horrible for the plants needed for seed dispersal,” she said.

Moss’ campaign of education will continue as well as monitoring the roadside areas for the habitat growth for the pollinators.