The Cherry Hill environmental board teamed with volunteers as well as Girl Scouts from the Cherry Hill-Haddonfield-Merchantville Service Unit to create, revitalize and maintain pollinator gardens across the area for Earth Day in April.
The Scouts planted their garden near their service center in Cherry Hill, and Mary Ellen Lane of the environmental board spoke to the girls about the importance of pollinators.
“We really wanted to as a service unit to find a way to really impact our local community, and so we were working with the Cherry Hill Environmental Board for several months to find a good date for planting, and to learn about the types of plants that we would need to purchase and have ready,” said Mary Jo Hutchinson, co-manager for the service unit with Beth Becker.
The projects sought to address a larger environmental problem that has become more apparent in recent years: Biodiversity is decreasing and bees are in decline. This is a problem because much of the food we eat relies on pollinators to pollinate the flowers.
As Lane explained, even if a tomato flowers, if it is not pollinated with pollen from another flower, it will fail to become a fruit. The pollen could be the same plant, but it would have to be from a different flower.
“Bees jump from flower to flower looking for food,” Lane said. “ … Where does she get the food? She gets it from a flower. So she’s busy gathering her groceries, and as she’s gathering her groceries, the pollen sticks to her legs.
“ … So the bee that goes from flower to flower to flower is dropping off pollen all over the place, very effectively. She’s pollinating everything she touches.”
Environmental Board Chairman Lewis Gorman III also emphasized that not all flowers are pollinators or a source of food for bees.
“Most of the plants, 98, 99% of the plants people buy at garden centers like Lowe’s or Home Depots, they’re bred to not have either pollen or nectar, so they don’t make seed,” he said. “And what pollinators need is pollen and others need nectar.”
Girl Scouts Olivia Galati, a first grader, and Allie Roehl, a ninth grader, were both surprised to learn that dandelions are some of the first pollinator flowers to blossom during the season to help feed bees.
There are many factors that may contribute to the decline of the bee population, including poor nutrition, pesticides and diseases, according to Planet Bee.org, Lane noted the decline is something scientists are still researching.
Lane and Gormon reported that the gardens planted in April are being watered and maintained and a number of flowers are expected to bloom later this month. Those interested in volunteering to care for pollinator gardens, can visit https://chnj.gov/1099/Pollinator-Gardens
Those interested in a recipe for a natural aphid or deer repellant can message Lane at email@example.com.
Upcoming volunteer opportunities with the Cherry Hill Environmental Board include trail and pollinator garden work for National Trails Day on Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m. to noon at Croft Farms. A regular trail crew meets on the second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon at alternating locations. Visit https://www.cherryhilltrailcrew.com/ for the latest volunteer information.