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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Page 87 of 144

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.19 85 of the decline of plant, animal and insect species worldwide. is United Nations- backed group of experts reported that a million species now face extinction. e group's former chairman told Science magazine, "What's at stake here is a livable world." As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in the New Yorker in May: "e report points to pollinators as one group of organisms that humans can't readily do without. Ninety percent of flowering plants and 75 percent of all types of food crops rely on pollination by animals — birds, bats, and (mostly) insects." Seen this way, converting lawn and garden space to the vegetation pollinators need to survive becomes more than a bug- watching, bird-attracting experience. Blair Leano-Helvey, owner of Idlewild Butterfly Farm on Logan Street in Shelby Park, stresses that high-profile monarchs and honeybees represent only pieces of a larger pollinator-centric ecosystem, whose foundering could affect us all. Mason bees, she says, come out in early spring in 50-degree weather and are responsible for pollinating the area's fruit trees. Once we get to 80-degree temperatures, those mason bees die out and native leaf-cutter bees do a lot of the pollinating with flowering plants. "If you had a total collapse (of biodiversity)," she says, "our grocery stores would look very different." In the Farmgate subdivision in Highview, where Anne Milligan and Steve Brown have gone native with their property, I watch along with them as a bulbous bumblebee crawls along a petal of a blue flag iris, then under an overleaf that protects the nectar and pollen near the flower's center. e bee disappears for a moment for a drink, then re-emerges to flit to another petal and crawl out of view once again. "ey travel in, like through a tunnel. Isn't that cute?" says Milligan, a retired therapist. "As they go down this tunnel or passageway, all of the pollen is sticking to them. "Yep, you can see it on his back legs," she adds. "Just watching that gives me every bit of satisfaction for what we're doing, right here. ey're naturally made to do that. I've watched other irises that are not native irises and the bees don't (crawl) on them. ose irises are nice for humans; they're not really nice for bumblebees." Milligan and Brown show me a garden bed in front of their home that borders a woodland area. It's all green when I visit in early May, a month prior to an expected explosion of colorful blossoms. In early summer, the garden transforms into a multi- hued landscape painter's dream, producing a palette of, among others, orange and purple coneflowers, yellow cut-leaf prairie dock, whitish Illinois bundleflowers and lavender- like blooms of the common milkweed. Monarchs have evolved to lay eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves because their caterpillar larvae dine exclusively on the greenery of these plants. "Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars have devised antibodies that make them immune to the Butterfly-attracting milkweed. Bottom left: Anne Milligan and Steve Brown in Highview.

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