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Counting Pollinators and Making Connections at Pollinator Picnics

On August 20 people of all ages counted pollinators and helped highlight the importance of native plants as a host, habitat and nectar source for insects and other wildlife at one of the five Intown Atlanta GNPS Pollinator Picnics as part of the UGA’s Great Georgia Pollinator Census Count 2022. Every person who participated to make this event a success contributed to changing the narrative about the value insects offer our ecosystem.

The habitat value native plants offer pollinators was on full display at the Pollinator Picnic sites! Just a handful of the plants/insects spotting during the Pollinator Count (clockwise from top left) include the imperiled American bumblebee/ironweed (Vernonia), Eastern swallowtail/cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), American bumblebee/mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), silver spotted skipper/Joy-pye weed (Eutrochium), native hoverfly/black-eyed susan (rudbeckia fulgida), common buckeye buttebonrfly/boneset (Eupatorium)

The following photos help show the value of the Pollinator Count and the multiple connections made at the Pollinator Picnics.

The idea of counting pollinators at different sites throughout Atlanta was a simple one, but the preparations were a bit more involved! Many volunteers helped ensure we had all the materials needed for each site. My sweet cat Merlin contributed by jumping in and out of boxes as I was assembling collected materials! My friend Leslie from Pollinator Friendly Yards on Facebook and I made seed packets to give to participants when they turned in their pollinator count sheet with seeds donated by my friend Rita of Botany Yards.

Each Pollinator Picnic site had a welcoming sign-in table staffed with volunteers from Intown Atlanta GNPS. Photos clockwise from top left show Mason Mill Park Pollinator Habitat Garden, Atlanta History Center Entrance Garden, Zonolite Park, Gordon-White Park, and GSU Perimeter College Botanical Garden

Some partnering organizations for the Pollinator Picnic sites had other activities including a pop-up native plant sale hosted by the GSU Perimeter College Botanical Garden the same day.

I volunteered at Zonolite Park and made bumblebee pollinator cookies with my friend Leslie for anyone who came to count the pollinators!

There were plenty of materials on the welcoming sign-in tables at the Pollinator Picnic sites. Some had children's books, some had information about pollinators that might be seen at that site, and all had information from Intown Atlanta GNPS about joining and adding native plants to the landscape. Pollinator Friendly Yards hosted an advocacy table at one of the sites with all this informational material for participants of all all ages to look at.

One of the volunteers brought Teddy to welcome visitors!

Pollinator counters took their role as citizen scientists seriously and attempted to count all the pollinators that landed on a native plant in a 15 minute time period. A few had so much fun they did it twice! Even though my yard is rewilded and he sees wildilfe in it all the time, my husband did the count and was surprised by all the life he saw in such a small area on just one plant.

The families that participated in the Pollinator Count as part of the Pollinator Picnics were engrossed in the life they saw on the plants and seemed to enjoy connecting to nature, each other, and volunteers at each site.

Volunteers with expertise were on hand to identify plants and insects. Shown is volunteer Bill Russell who helped with butterfly identification.

The habitat value of native plants delighted this family when they saw a tiny tree frog on a native passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) where volunteer Leslie Inman was also showing them a gulf fritillary caterpillar on the vine. She explained they are the caterpillars of the pretty orange butterflies flitting around the flowers and this vine is their only host plant!

The Pollinator Picnics offered so many opportunities to get up close with nature and see other creatures not pollinating plants, including grasshoppers, tree frogs, caterpillars, and lizards.

Some folks went all in and brought picnic lunches to enjoy after doing the Pollinator Count.

The relatively short window for folks to count pollinators at the Pollinator Picnics was filled with so much wonder! I hope the Intown Atlanta GNPS can build on the success of this event next year and encourage even more people to meet, count pollinators and follow up by planting native plants!

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