It’s widely known that creating a garden filled with flowering plants benefits our native fauna, but have you heard of pollinator pathways? They not only provide wildflower-rich environments for vital pollinators but also help disperse them into new habitats, aiding plant reproduction and mitigating climate change.
Find out below how you can help pollinators and wildlife in your area by working with your neighbours, local businesses and council to create safe, connected habitat passageways in your neighbourhood.
What are pollinator pathways?
Pollinator pathways are pesticide-free wildflower-rich connected corridors of public and private properties that provide habitat and food sources for pollinators and wildlife vital to our ecosystem.
The idea of creating safe habitat passageways for pollinators first emerged in 2016 when environmentalist, Donna Merrill, was working on a regional land conservation project between Hudson and Housatonic in the United States of America. Merrill offered residents free native trees to help build connected pollinator habitats. The success of this project led Merrill to establish Pollinator Pathways, an organisation based on this grassroots movement. Since then, beneficial Pollinator Pathways have been created in over 200 American towns.
Why are pollinator pathways important?
Most native bees forage within a 750-meter range, but due to urbanisation and suburbanisation, their natural vegetation has been fragmented, which has dramatically decreased their habitats and isolated them in the small parks and preserves that remain in these areas.
Land fragmentation is also one of the most significant threats to plant populations and their interactions with pollinators, as nearly 90% of flowering plants rely entirely or in part on animal pollination.
Establishing wildflower-rich habitat passageways across private and public land that spans the distance pollinators forage provides nutrition and habitat for them and helps disperse these beneficial insects into new habitats.
Monarch Butterflies’ specific nesting requirements are just one example that demonstrates the importance of pollinator pathways. Monarch Butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed as monarch caterpillars only eat this variety of plant when they hatch.
How to create a pollinator pathway?
Creating pollinator pathways requires a lot of coordination and effort, but the benefits of sustaining pollinator numbers and improving the services they deliver far outweigh the work involved in this project.
There is no universal approach to creating a pollinator pathway in your neighbourhood, but the overall goal is to create pesticide-free, wildflower-rich habitats that connect pollinators within the range they forage. The corridor can be made by connecting blooming pastures on farmlands, wildlife preserves, nature strips planted with pollinator-friendly plants, and backyard gardens blooming with native flowers.
The easiest way to start planning a pollinator pathway is to map out an area that connects homes, businesses, public parks and nature reserves near your property and then consult your neighbours about this project. Then talk to your local council or environmental organisation about your grassroots movement and see if they will support your project. The idea is to get as many people on board as possible.
Why are native plants important for pollinator pathways?
Over the years, each country’s native fauna has evolved and adapted to consume the food grown within its habitat. You will often find insects and animals have developed unique features that allow them to easily feed on the flowering plants within their environment. Including a variety of native flowering plants in your pollinator pathway plan will help disperse vital pollinators into new habitats in your neighbourhood.
For pollinator pathways in Australia, we recommend planting a variety of Australian native flowers, shrubs and trees including kangaroo paw, billy buttons, everlasting daisy, Swan River daisy, Eucalyptus, wattle, bottlebrush, banksia, tea tree, coastal rosemary, red flowering gum and Grevilleas.