Important pollinators like monarch butterflies and bees are attracted to the many native plants at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s demonstration garden in Falmouth. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

FALMOUTH — With bee populations and plant biodiversity declining across the country, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is encouraging local gardeners to consider creating wildlife corridors where ever possible.

That’s one reason the extension is partnering with the Falmouth Land Trust to host a special Pollinator Day event, 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at the extension’s demonstration garden at Tidewater Farm, off Farm Gate Road in Falmouth’s east end.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature hands-on activities designed to highlight the vital role pollinators play in the food system, as well as information about how to support pollinator populations, the extension said in a press release.

Native plants, including those located in the UMaine Extension demonstration garden in Falmouth, are key to supporting pollinator health. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

Master Gardeners will lead tours of the demonstration garden and Biodiversity Research Institute staff will also be on hand to showcase the importance of birds and bats as pollinators. A scavenger hunt and drawing contest will also be offered.

Pamela Hargest, a horticulturist with the Cooperative Extension, said while Maine’s native bee populations “are doing pretty well, we (need) to keep it that way. We have more than 270 species of native bees in Maine (and) many are excellent pollinators for our important food crops.”

Showcasing the importance of pollinators and native plants is especially important at a time “when development is on the rise and natural habitats are being disturbed in southern Maine,” Hargest said. “Today, (too) many of the plants in our landscape are either not native or have been heavily bred for certain characteristics and therefore they’re often lacking those valuable qualities that native species need to thrive.”

She said the extension is partnering with the land trust on the Pollinator Day event because “our missions overlap in many ways. Most notably, our organizations work to protect and conserve natural resources, restore and promote sustainable agriculture, and connect community members to the local landscape.”

Hargest said, “At the UMaine Gardens at Tidewater Farm, we are committed to supporting pollinator populations. We have a large bee motel in our Children’s Garden (and) there is a dedicated Pollinator Garden next to the bee yard, where the Cumberland County Beekeepers Association manages a few honeybee hives.”

In addition, she said, the demonstration garden also provides a variety of water sources for pollinators, “as well as a variety of woody and herbaceous plants that bloom at different times of the year to support pollinator populations throughout the season.”

Hargest said the goal of Pollinator Day is to demonstrate “simple techniques homeowners can use on their own property.”

“We hope those who attend come away with a greater appreciation for nature and the importance of saving native species habitat at the local level,” Nicolls said. “Our birds, bees and bats are critical for pollinating flowers, trees and some of our favorite local crops, like blueberries.”

She said with increasing evidence suggesting that pollinators are in decline, “many experts have warned that without pollinators we do not eat. Pollinators are increasingly under threat for a number of reasons, including the loss of habitat and other stressors, (such as) changing weather patterns.”

Kate Nicoll, outreach and education coordinator at the Falmouth Land Trust, said it’s important to educate people about the benefits of pollinators, like bees and bats, which some people consider to be pests.

“We hope to change perceptions about these important creatures and share what people can do to help rebuild and restore pollinator habitats here in Falmouth. One of the first steps in conservation is raising awareness,” she said.

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