While making their way to campus each morning, students may notice distinctive, round white and purple signs popping up in neighbors’ yards. These signs indicate that the property is a part of the Lower Merion and Narberth Pollinator Pathway program, a collaboration between the Lower Merion Conservancy, the Narberth Area Garden Club, the Friends of West Mill Creek Park, the Penn Valley Civic Association, and local residents, designed to bolster pollinator-friendly habitats in the community.
Pollinators are insects, bats, bees, butterflies, and birds that help to move pollen from the stamen to the stigma on flowering plants. This movement of pollen is essential for plants to fertilize and reproduce. According to farmers.gov, “More than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants need a pollinator to reproduce…and most of our food comes from flowering plants. One out of every three bites of our food, including fruits, vegetables, chocolate, coffee, nuts, and spices, is created with the help of pollinators.”
The economic impact of pollinators cannot be underestimated. The USDA reports that there are over 100 U.S.-grown crops that rely on pollinators. Furthermore, the work of pollinators adds $18 billion of revenue to crop production annually. According to the USDA, “In 2019, U.S. honey bee colonies produced 157 million pounds of honey valued at $309 million.”
Pollinators have been hit hard by climate change, the urbanization and suburbanization of our environment, invasive species, and pesticides. According to the non-profit organization, Bee Informed, “Over the entire year (1 April 2021 – 1 April 2022) beekeepers in the United States lost an estimated 39% of their managed honey bee colonies.”
The Pollinator Pathway Program is working to combat these challenges and provide safe habitats where pollinators can thrive.
The idea is simple: create a network of “pathways” or corridors that are made up of pollinator-friendly gardens to “defragment” our fragmented ecosystem. The goal is to have these pollinator-friendly gardens planted within the range of pollinators; for most native bees that is about 750 meters. Residents commit to using native plants, removing invasive species, not using pesticides, and leaving dead leaves and brushes to allow pollinators a place for overwintering.
Throughout Lower Merion and Narberth, on properties all around the community, residents have planted pollinator pathway habitats to support pollinators. These gardens are one of the reasons why the flowering trees and plants in the outdoor spaces around campus are flourishing. The program is an excellent example of how lucky Haverford is to exist within the greater Lower Merion Township community.
According to the ancient Chinese proverb, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While a single step may not seem like much, the Pollinator Pathway program is proving that many small steps can, in fact, make a difference.
So as you walk to school in the mornings and spot a Pollinator Pathway sign, try not to step on plants. They serve a vital purpose.