GREAT BARRINGTON — Great Barrington is doing its part to create a bee-friendly habitat in its downtown through the installation of pollinator plantings. In coming weeks, flowering plants will be installed at the base of the town’s sentinel of about 80 deciduous trees, mostly on Main Street. Flowers to be planted will include black chokeberry, foxglove, aster, orange butterfly weed, lupine, and blue vervain.
This project evolved from the Pollinator-Friendly Community Resolution passed by the 2016 Annual Town Meeting. That resolution calls for creation of a local ecosystem that sustains native pollinators: bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, ants, and certain birds. These creatures are vital to the pollination of food crops; in Massachusetts bees pollinate 45 percent of the state’s food crops.
Pollination happens when insects transfer pollen grains from male to female plants, triggering seed production. Bees are the busiest pollinators, but their numbers have been on a sharp decline around the globe due to colony collapse, harmful pesticide use, loss of friendly habitats, air pollution, and climate warming. A shortage of bees and other pollinators is a threat to agriculture and other plants that are vital for life-sustaining ecosystems.
The pollinator project is part of the wider downtown infrastructure improvement plan now under way, which includes improvements to sidewalks and related work, and repaving of the town-owned Triplex Theater parking lot. Work crews will be installing the pollinator gardens between 4 a.m. and noon to minimize disruption on Main Street.
“Great Barrington is a trendsetter on pollinator-friendly community policies,” said Vivian Orlowski, chair of the town’s Agricultural Commission. “Thanks to the leadership of Public Works Superintendent Sean VanDeusen and his team, we are putting these policies into practice. The Agricultural Commission encourages residents, schools, farms, and other businesses to learn from the town’s initiatives and adapt pollinator-friendly practices for their own properties.”