As humans continue to spread out and impact every inch of the globe, it’s critical that we make room for other living organisms, plants, and insects, in particular. It’s a good thing that insects are so small! That means there can be plenty of room for them if we make it.
Urban areas can provide valuable habitat for native insects. Our cities can be a refuge from single-crop agricultural plantings, and the pesticides that accompany many monoculture farms. Cities can provide diverse pollen sources that support insect populations through an entire year. That’s right—many bees forage for different pollen depending on the life cycle stage they’re in. Just as bears use fat stores during hibernation, queen bumblebees require high-fat pollen in autumn. Consider transforming your lawn into a native meadow, which would provide valuable foraging space for native bees and butterflies. Don’t have a yard? Join your local community garden and plant a native wildflower border (added bonus: you’ll attract more pollinators to your garden’s tomatoes). Volunteering with local parks is another good way to practice your green thumb while supporting valuable insect habitat.
If you want to start a garden or even if you’re looking to bring home one plant to keep outside, opt for plants native to the region. If you’re not sure, ask at your local nursery or look it up online. Native asters and goldenrod are great choices if you have lots of sunlight and they support nearly 70 of our native specialist bees and host many butterflies and moths.
Removing invasive plants is almost as important as planting native plants. Invasives outcompete and crowd out native species, and if they do provide nectar or pollen, it isn’t as nourishing to insects. These plants were introduced so they didn’t evolve with our local wildlife, and therefore don’t support our local food webs. Grass lawns fit in here too—they don’t support biodiversity at all.
Most of our native bees (70% of them!) are ground nesters, or they make their nests in underground open patches of well-draining soils. Leave some exposed soil with southern exposure when you’re putting down mulch and you may welcome new neighbors. Old logs and fallen branches are great for creating safe spaces for growing beetles and many other bugs. Use them to create an interesting border or leave them under a standing tree—this simple step creates wonderful habitat. Save the cutting back of seasonal growth for the spring when temperatures are warm enough for the overwintering insects to wake up and get started (at least 55° F). Or better yet, keep the perennial stems year-round—at least one to three feet of stems where possible. The hollow or pithy stems of many of our native plants are exactly where many of our bees make their nests—think of them as tiny apartments for their new baby bees.
Join a community garden and share your knowledge and passion with other members. Help care for a school garden over the summer. Find a local nonprofit or parks group that supports and cares for native habitats and find ways to get involved with their work. Contact your local elected leaders and let them know you care about supporting native pollinators (we’re not talking about honey bees!). If we are actively supporting our native pollinators through our policies and actions, all of our other insects are sure to benefit.
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.
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.