Preliminary data indicates pollinator districts have been successful

A breakthrough in Broomfield’s Baseline development could show that buzzing bees benefit from radiant plants along contours, says Butterfly Pavilion.

New data show that pollinator districts support more families of pollen-carrying insects. A pollinator district is a community that is committed to having more pollinator-supported habitats, explained Amy Yarger, director of horticulture at the Butterfly Pavilion.

The idea is to build a corridor that pollinators can walk through and visit various plants. It may look like specific plants in the medians of roads or next to sidewalks. This in turn supports pollinator populations as well as plants throughout the district. At Baseline, they plan to have a 77-acre linear park.

Preliminary data show that populations have already started to grow. Yarger said that in 2019 — before any construction on the 1,100 acres — very few pollinators were found in the survey they conducted. She said the land was dominated by a field of wheat.

In 2019, construction began and Butterfly Pavilion reviewed each new landscape proposed by the developer. These landscapes could have been streetscapes, medians, parks or natural spaces. They made recommendations for designs and plants that support pollinators, as well as save water and increase native plant species.

After repeating the same survey from 2019 in June and September 2022, they saw new species and families of pollinators. It’s a small increase – eleven to 18 – but Yarger says the results are promising.

“It’s really inspiring because it just shows that if you build it, they will come,” Yarger said.

Following the 2022 legislative session, Governor Jared Polis signed Bill SB22-199 into law on May 27 at the Butterfly Pavilion that would require a study of the challenges associated with native pollinator populations.

The study would be led by the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. The results of the study would be submitted to the Colorado General Assembly and the Governor, along with recommendations on how to resolve the issues.

why it works

Each pollinator district uses a rubric to make the area more pollinator friendly. Factors such as planning and design, soil management, water efficiency and type of plants all contribute to the end result.

Another element is how educational opportunities are provided to people living in the district and whether they can access materials to learn more.

“How does the community actively encourage people to learn more about pollinators or give people the opportunity to participate in some way? Do you have pollinator signs or other pollinator educational materials? ” she says.

She noted various plants in the area, different blooming between spring and fall. Different colors also help insects.

To encourage more pollinator-friendly cities, Yarger said municipalities can modify their landscaping codes and ordinances to actively promote biodiversity. It may look like lawn replacement, discounts or educational programs.

She pointed to Manitou Springs focusing on including pollinator pockets in all of its parks.

Benefits for the community

Not only do neighborhoods benefit insects and plants, but they also contribute to community identity.

“Creating a pollinator district really gets people excited and excited about where they live,” Yarger said. “There’s the element of environmental sustainability, but also the element of community pride, of living in a place that cares about the planet and the little creatures that do so much for us.”

She said talking with residents inspires her because they brag about various facts they learn about pollinators and tell her about the actions they take. Residents feel empowered because supporting pollinators is a quick beneficial change, they can see the impact they are having.

“It’s a way to help people take action in a really positive and hopeful way,” she said.

Yarger pointed out that educating people about pollinators also encourages them to care about the environment. Twenty years ago she never got questions about native bees, but now she does.

“People ask ‘can these plants withstand all the weather changes that we’re seeing because of climate change?’ It’s become a much more holistic concern about community, climate, sustainability, equity and how to make sure everyone reaps the benefits of environmental conservation,” she said.


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