We need to have a talk about the birds and the bees...

One in every three bites of the food you eat is brought to you by the tireless work of billions of pollinators who spend their days flying and crawling from flower to flower. Without the birds, the bees and all the other animals and insects pollinating their little hearts out everyday - most of the fruit, vegetables and nuts would disappear.  Human diets aside, pollinators put food in the mouths of most other animals that live on this planet too and it's through their work that plants are able to reproduce and thrive.*(see the end of this blog for how pollination works!)

Sadly pollinators around the world are dying thick and fast and we know what is killing them. The two biggest causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss both of which we know humanity to be the cause of.  So, can humanity be the solution?   Andrea Reid thinks so and has started up a project called pollinator paths to do just that. I spoke to Andrea about the plight of the pollinators and what she’s doing about it.

Andrea Reid on creating Auckland’s Green Lifelines.

Your project aims to create pollinator paths all across Auckland.  Can you tell me exactly what a pollinator path is?

It’s a pathway of plants, living walls and roofs, safe houses and other pollinator friendly features that connect up existing pollinator habitats so that pollinators can move around the city safely.  It’s like putting in stepping stones to break up the concrete jungle for pollinators and restore ecological balance.

What are the next steps for the Pollinator Paths project?  

Well, there’s hardly any data on where the pollinators are and how many of them are in Auckland so we’ve first got to work that out.  Because there’s no data there is no formal plan to ensure pollinator survival in Auckland.  So we’re running a pollinator count later this year.  It’ll be like the Bird Survey that Forest and Bird does.  We will ask people to count the number of pollinators they see in their backyards and then they’ll plug that data into a map so we can see what we need to help and where!

You obviously have a passion for pollinators, what was it that sparked your interest in them?

As a kid I was always fascinated by bugs, I was totally a bug girl.  My mum taught me never to kill the spiders because they ate the flies... and through that I learnt that everything is living in a delicate balance.  The pollinators need us, and we need them.

How did you come to start this project?

I started the project as part of my final year of landscape architecture studies.   I was really good at graphics and design but my main passion was to help the environment.  So I found something that combined those things to try and make our community and world a better place to live in.

Your project is really inspiring and must have taken a fair bit of work and perseverance to get to this point!... Can you tell me a bit about some of the challenges you've faced along the way?

Well, people seem to refer to me as an expert but I don’t really know what I’m doing!  There's probably people who are better at doing this than me it’s just I really want this to happen so I got into it.  I’ve learnt that you don’t necessarily need to know everything about everything to be able to take something forward.  You can gain all these different connections with people who have all the specialities you need along the way.

On that note are you looking for any help for this project? And if so, what?

I’m a designer that’s my main skill-set - I need people with all sorts of skills to pull this off - accounting, advertising, anything!   We also really need people to do the pollinator count and help us get the word out about it.

And finally, aside from getting involved with pollinator paths, do you have any advice for people who care about pollinators and want to help them?

If you own property in the Auckland CBD and would like to support the project by kitting out your building with a green roof or wall etc. then contact me.  Also, I want pollinator paths to get bigger and go all throughout NZ.  It’s an initiative that can be done wherever - There’s nothing that makes it specific to Auckland except the plant species.  So people can contact me if they want to replicate the initiative where they live.  Otherwise, just get out there and plant -  treesforbeesnz.org have lot of good info on what to plant for pollinators.

Like the Facebook Page or go to the Pollinator Paths website for more info!

*How does pollination work?  

  1. Pollen from the male part of the flower + the female part of the flower + something to move the pollen from the male part to the female part = Pollination.
  2. Pollination = Seeds. Seeds are often tasty themselves or are encased in something tasty like a fruit.
  3. Seeds + a hungry animal = transportation of the seed to a new place where it can grow.

It’s what walt disney likes to call - the circle of life.