This week, the Service is celebrating National Pollinator Week. Hear from Erica Forstater, a visitor services intern at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, about what the refuge is doing to help pollinators. Check back this week to learn more about pollinators, some of the issues they face and what we are doing to help.
National Pollinator Week is here! Running from June 17-23, the week celebrates what pollinators, such as honeybees, butterflies, beetles and bats do for us, wildlife and plants. Many pollinators are threatened by pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species, diseases, and chemical malpractice. We are dependent on pollinators, particularly in regards to food production, so increased awareness and education is a must in protecting them.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum recognizes the importance of pollinators through our pollinator garden, a collaborative effort between the refuge and the Friends of Heinz Refuge. Chuck Lafferty, a board member of the friends group and an elementary school teacher, played a critical role in the effort. Lafferty is a first grade teacher at Longstreth Elementary School, who created a schoolyard habitat garden at the school in 2000. The project extended to John Heinz Refuge in 2010, with a grant that allowed the friends group to purchase native plants and supplies. Plants were grown and cared for at Longstreth Elementary, then transplanted to a raised bed garden at John Heinz, with a huge amount of the work completed by the students, who were between the ages of 5 and 12 years old.
Since then, the pollinator garden has been a home and food source to pollinators around the refuge.The garden and the refuge serve to educate residents and visitors of Philadelphia about nature. As an urban national wildlife refuge, John Heinz has the opportunity to educate city residents with this great educational resource. The garden’s effect on our local pollinators is amazing, but the greatest feat is ultimately on the students who volunteer at the garden with Lafferty, as well as the visitors who get to see the garden’s progress. The class travels to the refuge several times during the school year to pull weeds and mulch the beds. The students have the opportunity to learn outside of a classroom setting, where they get to do the work themselves and see the results firsthand. Classes discover insects crawling around the plants, see the mason bees in their beehouse, and learn about native plants that they can, and do grow themselves.
The pollinator garden is beneficial for our pollinator populations, and I’m excited to work with the students this summer to help them learn about the importance of pollinators at the national wildlife refuge right in the backyard of Philadelphia.