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Kentuckians Challenged to Create "Pollinator Gardens"

Buckwheat is among the pollinator-friendly plants. (Michael Lehet/Flickr)
Buckwheat is among the pollinator-friendly plants. (Michael Lehet/Flickr)
October 23, 2017

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Monarch butterfly numbers have declined by 90 percent over 20 years, felled by pesticides, parasites and loss of habitat. They're considered a sentinel species, whose fate mirrors that of many insects.

Now, backers of a program to greatly expand all pollinators' range say it's about two-thirds of the way to its goal of establishing 1 million "pollinator gardens" by the end of the year. The National Pollinator Garden Network has registered 650,000 gardens across the U.S. designed to attract bees and butterflies.

Mary Phillips, senior director at the National Wildlife Federation's "Garden for Wildlife" program, said homeowners, businesses and cities are all planting flowers to benefit the pollinators.

"It's very small to very big. Some of these are creating tremendous acres of habitat and others are kind of connecting corridors across urban settings,” Phillips said. "So both of those approaches are equally valuable."

Examples of pollinator-friendly plants include flowering bushes such as buckwheat, and host plants like milkweed. Phillips said vivid red and blue flowers with a bell shape are especially attractive to hummingbirds. Plants that have a long flowering season, from spring to fall, are ideal.

Kedar Narayan, a 9-year-old Pennsylvania boy, created a cell phone app - a game called "Pollinator for a Pet" - to teach people about native-plant pollinator gardens. He said kids have a big role to play in this effort.

"I see all the adults, they're doing their part, but I see potential in us kids to do our part too,” Narayan said. "And together we can create a new ecosystem, one that will become the United States of Pollinators!"

According to the National Wildlife Federation, one-third of the food Americans eat is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and certain birds and bats - a cycle that accounts for $29 billion of the nation's food production.

You can register your pollinator garden at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - KY