Sandra Diamond Fox Aug. 1, 2021 Sandi is editor of The Litchfield County Times and The New Milford Spectrum.
KENT — Every other Friday afternoon throughout the summer, Kent Land Trust intern Whitney Troy has been standing at a table at the Kent Farmers Market, educating people against using chemicals on their property and on the importance of native plants.
Troy, 30, said she hopes to encourage residents to establish pollinator pathways — pesticide-free corridors of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for pollinators.
Residents can become part of this initiative by taking several steps, including planting pollinator-friendly trees, providing a source of clean water, mowing higher and less often, and leaving dead wood and dirt patches for nesting bees. To date, through Troy’s efforts and in partnership with the Kent Garden Club and Kent Conservation Commission, 14 residents have gotten on board.
“They have registered their properties to get on the map of New England showing where landowners have made pollinator-friendly habitat,” said Connie Manes, executive director of the Kent Land Trust. “The vision of the pollinator pathway is to promote linkages all across new England.” “The biggest motto is trying your best,” said Troy, a student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. “Even just using less pesticides is good.”
A pollinator pathway creates a continuous landscape for pollinators to migrate. “The way we landscape now, land is so fragmented for pollinators,” she said. “If one person doesn’t use any chemicals on his or her lawn and you have a nice native garden for pollinators or a meadow, but if that person’s neighbor is using a bunch of pesticides, those pollinators are going to be stuck in that one area — that one landscape. That’s not good because it decreases the diversity — not only of the plants that are also in the habitat, but that will lead to the decrease of diversity of pollinators.” Upon hearing the word “bees,” Troy said many people get anxious about the possibility of being stung. To that concern, Troy said not to worry.
“There are 4,000 different types of native bees in the United States,” she said. “A lot of these bees are solitary and don’t have social nests, so they’re not likely to sting you because they aren’t really worried about protecting their nest.” And pollinators are not just bees. They can also include beetles, butterflies, hummingbirds and some mammals such as bats.
Humans need pollinators in order to survive, according to Troy. “Most of our food is from flowering plants that rely on pollinators to survive, and they are declining at a vast rate due to our use of pesticides, herbicides and chemicals,” she said. Additionally, invasive plants, which take over many gardens, don’t provide bees with the nutritional benefits they need. They are also really aggressive and take away the diversity of the environment, according to Troy.
Establishing pollinator pathways The Pollinator Pathway NE Project began in 2017 in Wilton. Pathways have since been created in more than 200 towns throughout the United States.
Troy has been busy in town establishing pollinator pathways on her own and with help from others. The Kent Land Trust has a pollinator garden, for which Troy said she’s hoping to add more plants. Additionally, at the Kent Community Garden, which is run by the Kent Center School, Troy made a perennial bed against a shed and is placing plants in there as well.
At the East Kent Hamlet Nature Preserve, a former Girl Scout camp that’s now owned by the Kent Land Trust, Troy is helping restore a pollinator meadow. She has placed black plastic to smother invasive plants and open up an area for native species, which are plants that are nourishing to native insects and birds.