Louisville Magazine

AUG 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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84 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.19 e trees, shrubs and understory plants we've been cultivating in our yards do not support native biodiversity. e lawns we so prize are a food desert for nearly any species, save perhaps the Canada geese that now skip migrations to the tundra grasslands where they evolved and snowbird year-round in places like Kentucky. Indigenous insects cannot eat many of the imported, and sometimes invasive, ornamental shrubs and flowering plants we put in our gardens. With the corresponding reduction of insect numbers, birds and other animals that feed on them are in decline. In his book Bringing Nature Home, Douglas W. Tallamy, a University of Delaware professor and leading exponent of the native-plant movement, warns about "the apparent disconnect between Gardens go native — and the butterflies, birds, bees buzz in. By Bruce Allar Photos by Joon Kim the typical goals of a gardener, to grow beautiful undamaged plants, and (using) gardens to produce lots of insects." Margaret Carreiro is in the vanguard of local native-plant gardeners inviting monarch butterflies and other pollinators into their yards. Along with the local chapter of Wild Ones — a national organization that promotes, according to its website, "native plantings that create living landscapes" — Carreiro, a retired University of Louisville biology professor, advocates the spread of what are commonly referred to as "pollinator gardens" because they attract pollen carriers such as bees and butterflies. For 15 years, Carreiro has been tending to her pollinator garden on her property near Lakeside Swim Club. One area in her "fully pollinated" backyard garden is filled with spring ephemerals. With names like Virginia bluebells, wild geraniums, mayapples and Dutchman's breeches, they're the first to bloom each year and, according to Carreiro, they're essential for many native bees, including tireless mason bees and bumblebees. ese native bees are, Carreiro says, better spring pollinators than honeybees. ey move the fertilizing pollens of fruit trees such as apples, plums, pears and peaches from flower to flower and plant to plant. Both mason bees and bumblebees are solitary species that do not build hives like the congregating honeybees we know so well. ese lesser-known bees emerge famished from their winter torpor and need a meal. "What we want to create here," Carreiro says while describing her garden to me during my visit in May, "is not just a feast for the eyes but a feast for the insects." She points out that populations of insects in many places around the world have crashed an estimated 75 percent since 1970. In addition to recent concerns about declines of monarch butterflies, many people have been alarmed by the drop in honeybee numbers, another poster child in the awareness campaign about pollinators that help fertilize our crops and flowering plants. "Most people don't realize that honeybees are from Europe," Carreiro says. "ey're not our native honeybees, and we have a plethora of native bees that are crashing — including the bumblebee — especially in urban areas and on farms due to a host of factors. One is habitat loss; another is insecticide use. "Our biodiversity is collapsing. is is what we're trying to deal with," Carreiro adds. "What I like about pollinator gardens is this: ey're not going to save all of the species, we know this, but we can choose what to do with our own property and it's not dependent on the government. It's dependent on what we would like done. I can't save the Amazon, but I can do something in my own yard." No doubt, recent gloomy news about climate change, habitat destruction and other pressures put on the natural world by an ever-increasing human population can lead to paralysis. If so many species are already going extinct worldwide, what can an individual do in Louisville, Kentucky? Preserving pollinators is now being seen as a first line of defense against the biodiversity crisis. In May, an international group of scientists released an assessment

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