Featured Story

Featured Letter: More ways we can protect insects

To the editor:

The North Fork Audubon Society commends both Zach Ellis and Peconic Landing for their efforts to educate our community about the importance of pollinators in our landscape. 

By choosing to create a pollinator garden as his Eagle Scout project, Southold native Zach Ellis has shown leadership in an area where it is sorely needed on the North Fork: respect for the web of life. Insects are a major part of that web, yet we do very little to support them.

Like Zach, we should start by planting natives wherever we can. Without them, many different species of insects are doomed, from bees to butterflies. One that is suddenly verging on possible extinction is the formerly ubiquitous monarch butterfly, the larvae of which only eat the leaves of milkweed.

I want to mention another Peconic Landing project devoted to pollinators that was started this spring. Resident Louise Barry, 93, asked us to help her find and distribute milkweed and native nectar plants to residents who volunteered to put them in their own gardens and patio planters. Louise purchased and donated hundreds of native plant seedlings for this project. Residents are currently monitoring monarch sightings and submitting the data to citizen science websites devoted to documenting migration patterns.

The next time you decide to add a new plant to your yard, go native. If you do it yourself, ask your local nursery to offer a variety of native perennials, shrubs and trees for you to choose from. If you hire a landscaper, tell them that you want to use native plants and shrubs, and that you don’t allow pesticides on your property.

Pesticides that contain ‘neonicotinoids’ are a “major threat to pollinator health” and are probably a major factor in causing colony collapse disorder. The city of Portland, Ore., has banned its use after a massive 50,000 bee die-off in 2013. You can learn more about “neonics” at xerces.org.

Last, and very important: Do not remove every fallen leaf from your yard this autumn! Rake them under your shrubs and trees and leave them. As they decompose they’ll provide nutrients for the shrubs, and a place for the next generation of pollinators to hibernate over the winter as well as food for birds like wrens, thrushes, white-throated sparrows and others.

Diana Van Buren, Greenport

Ms. Van Buren is a board member and former president of the North Fork Audubon Society.