At Great Swamp Refuge, pollinators have a place to call home
A ruby-throated hummingbird drops in, pausing at a bright flower to pull in nectar.
A handful of colorful swallow-tail butterflies flit across the patch of mountain mint.
A couple bees buzz from bloom to bloom of the white beard tongue.
These are all sights to take in at the native pollinator gardens behind our visitor’s center at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, N.J. This is our fifth season of gardening around the visitor’s center, and each year brings new ideas and expanding gardens, including a butterfly garden and over an acre of native flowers.
Just this past weekend, we started National Pollinator Week with a day of volunteer efforts dedicated to sprucing up all of our gardens. The gardens certainly take a lot of work – there’s planting, cleaning and plenty of weeding to be done. But it’s well worth it. This time of the year, the gardens are emerging with many beautiful colors and a variety of critters coming and going all day long.
Whether it is wild turkeys hunting for insects early in the morning or the butterflies dancing from flower to flower all day long, there always something happening in the gardens. Not everyone notices the hummingbirds, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies carrying pollen from one of our native plants to another. But we certainly enjoy the fruits of these hard-working animals!
This year, our gardens were certified as “Butterfly Gardens” by the North American Butterfly Association, and as “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. We’re glad to contribute to the conservation of pollinators, which are quickly losing the habitat they need. As native vegetation is replaced by roadways, manicured lawns, crops and non-native gardens, pollinators lose the food and nesting sites that are necessary for their survival.
The refuge is very grateful to all the volunteers that help keep these gardens looking so good. All the hours of hard work in the hot sun pays off when we see all the wildlife that love to call them home!