by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP
The situation about pollinators is not just the stuff of a handful of observant farmers or shared through a network of academic researchers nowadays. The situation about pollinators is reaching every one of us, through social media, ordinary journalism, and professional spotlight and reference articles. How best to share that information with customers is another question.
For all of the information available, NHLA hopes members are considered a major “go to” for professional advice and for clarifying difficult topics. Pollinator-friendly neighborhoods are all the rage in many states and in many parts of our state. Agriculture depends on healthy environments for proper and prolific pollinator to take place. And, customer questions can be answered without any political bias or complicated answers. Your customers can research their interest in pollinator-friendly yards and gardens, and you can take it from there.
While some customers may have a zero tolerance for dandelions in their yards, it’s a great time to have a discussion about how to go about getting rid of the dandelions – or not. Explaining to your customers about the benefits they bring and a bit about their life cycles, can help your work load as well as the pollinators’ populations. Learn what you can about pollinators from the sources available to us, listed in the article in this issue of our Newsletter. It’s not a simple discussion and there’s not one right or wrong answer. The key is in educating your clients and understanding the role pollinators play in our ecosystem, not just our yards.
We are fortunate to have garden centers, commercial and wholesale growers and colleagues in the green industry keeping informed – our task is to make sure authentic and helpful information is in the hands of our homeowners and land stewards. With these three resources, you might find the help you need to do that: First, the United States Department of Agriculture (usda.gov) is a solid place to start. It’s as simple as from the home page of the USDA, just use the search box, enter “pollinators” and take off! The listings there will include so many topics, you will benefit from taking the time to scroll the list and see what you are really looking for. Articles and entries from myriad organizations are listed, including some you may not have thought of such as “Bats as Pollinators,” “Moths are Pollinators, Too,” and “Know Your Native Pollinators,” just three of the many screen’s worth of information contained there.
Entering “Pollinators in New Hampshire” will yield you even more specific information (listing many projects from our own UNH) and one that is of strong interest, “Native Shrubs and Trees for Pollinator Conservation in New Hampshire.” Using sites such as these, under the umbrella of your USDA search, will mean you have vetted information from a variety of resources, and from there, you can become more involved with your questions for your plant source professionals.
The second of three sources to consider is the Xerces Society. In 2021, the Xerces Society, headquartered in Oregon, celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a well-respected environmental society “focusing on the conservation of invertebrates considered to be essential to biological diversity and ecosystem health.” The name of this organization was taken to honor the extinct California butterfly, the Xerces blue butterfly. From growing milkweed, to rethinking pesticide use, the Xerces Society is science-based and relies on research projects from many sources to keep informed and share that information with as many people, from as many perspectives as possible. Their website (xerces.org) is an easy-to-search site, which includes a lot of information you might like to share on your websites, or with your clients. One example that might be of particular interest is their download available to you about Firefly Habitat and Protection. Fireflies are a summer symbol of relaxing evenings for many of us, and offer a lot of intrigue and even entertainment for people to watch and feel their healthy garden environment come alive at night. From this, to very practical information on native plants, the Xerces Society is also offering a lengthy series of webinars (free, but registration is required). You may want to check out the Xerces website, and follow clicks to the various webinars listed. This organization is highly recommended because the webinars are not a means to collect your e-mail address and then pepper you with membership solicitations or offers to purchase related merchandise by supporting commercial venues.
The third source to consider is the North American Butterfly Association. NABA is on this list, to round out the perspective offered through the USDA, and the Xerces Society with this smaller organization. On naba.org, you can find a link to their information on how to certify a garden as “Certified Butterfly Habitat.” This is a straightforward, easy to assess flow chart where a property owner could be proud to show they have worked (worked with you!) to develop an area of their yard which is butterfly-friendly and worth sharing with the passes-by as such. There are quite a few resources available through the NABA, and you might find this to be a resource to share with clients, on your website, or in your social media, to have readership recognize you as a landscaper who understands the importance of caring for the natural environment, while enhancing it the ways a property owner would like to see for the uses they have in mind.
While there are many, many more resources to suggest, these three offer such depth and variety that starting with them will give you ways to enhance your professional approach to questions about pollinators and what your company is doing to help the situation we are reading so much about and seeing so much about in digital, print and video or television sources.