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Photo by Marisol Ortega

How High Line Gardeners support insects

By High Line | August 18, 2021

Visitors to the High Line may notice some of the labor-intensive work of the park’s gardeners—but there’s so much more going on behind the scenes than the weeding, watering, pruning, and planting you might expect. Our gardeners are stewards of an entire ecosystem in the park—supporting birds, insects, and other creatures. Below are some of the ways we’re specifically supporting insects.

Integrated Pest Management
The High Line is committed to avoiding pesticides or chemical fertilizers. We follow an Integrated Pest Management program, which starts by ensuring our plants are well-adapted to the climate, and that they stay healthy and pest-resistant. We previously released beneficial insects like lacewings and native ladybugs, but as the gardens mature, we are finding that additional releases become unnecessary, as the predator populations grow to equilibrium. For instance, where there are aphids, there are ladybugs. Integrated Pest Management is a tool that approaches the park as a dynamic web of relationships, and our gardeners work hard to support those insect and plant interactions.

Bee hotels
In the past two years, we’ve introduced two different kinds of bee hotels for cavity-nesting native bees. These hotels are not for brief stays though—they provide a home for overwintering young bees, like masked bees, who emerge from eggs and develop into mature bees during the colder months of the year. Many native bee species live in small cavities, whether they’re plant stems or manufactured bee houses, and these shelters provide space for many of the local bees we’ve observed on the High Line.

Water features
The urban environment of New York City doesn’t necessarily have many water sources for wildlife. Creating insect-friendly water sources provides a critical amenity—especially during the hot and dry days of the summer—for bees, butterflies, and other insects. We’ve added a water feature on the upper Sundeck to offer refreshment to our tiniest residents and visitors.

Habitat preservation & creation
Beyond bee hotels, the plants and garden beds of the High Line provide insect habitat naturally. We’ve adjusted our gardening methods over the past four years to better accommodate native bees in particular. During our annual Spring Cutback—when most grasses and perennials are trimmed back in the park—we intentionally leave certain species that are favored homes for overwintering bees. We also leave some leaf litter and plant debris in the planting beds, which provides critical shelter for insects, like our beloved fireflies and native Luna moths. The High Line also has a healthy population of sassafras trees, which supports Spicebush swallowtail butterflies. This species of butterfly overwinters in cocoons among the leaf litter. Raking up the leaves would mean removing these butterflies (and fireflies) from the park.

Plant diversity & native plants
Some insects are specialists, meaning they may only feed on or nest in specific plants. Planting a diversity of plants—and prioritizing native and endemic species—allows a variety of insects, including those native to New York, to benefit from the gardens. Our gardeners have observed bumblebee queens making nests in the bases of our native sedge and grass species, proving that you don’t have to be pollinated by a bee to be important to bees.

Download our Celebrating Insects guide to learn about the importance of insects, their interesting and critical relationships with plants on the High Line, what our gardeners do, and what you can do at home to support these vital creatures, and more.

Download the brochure


TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

Additional support for Horticulture on the High Line is provided by the Greenacre Foundation.

Celebrating Insects on the High Line is sponsored, in part, by Whole Foods Market.

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Your gift will help support our pollinator-friendly gardening practices, help us to install bee hotels and water features along the park, and much more.