Soil and water

The Treasure Valley Pollinator Project helps native pollinators

CALDWELL, Idaho — As the spring weather warms up, many Idahoans are planning summer gardens in their backyards. A local partnership in Treasure Valley hopes residents will prioritize plants for native pollinators.

This is the second year of the Treasure Valley Pollinator project, which aims to get 64,000 plants into the ground that will benefit local bees, butterflies and beetles.

This year, attendees have a choice of four apartments featuring a variety of native flowers, herbs and medicinal plants. The process is simple: people pre-order pollinator packs online, pick them up in late April, and plant them at home.

“We started last year as a way to get people excited about bringing pollinators to your garden and a practical way for people to get involved and really make a difference in our community. “said program coordinator Jessica Harrold.

Harrold is working with the Ada County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is partnering with Caldwell’s Peaceful Belly Farm for the project. Farm owner Josie Erskine oversees the early stages of the project, as seeds are planted and nurtured in her farm’s greenhouse. His passion for plants and pollinators is palpable.

“Without these insects, there is no life on earth,” Erskine said. “Not just human life – no life.”

Erskine said terrestrial pollinators provide a variety of important services for the planet.

“Thanks to these flowering plants, our water is cleaned, our air is cleaned, they pollinate our forests,” Erskine said. “And the ecosystem service provided by pollinators globally is estimated to be around $412 billion that we don’t know as humans how we would perform these tasks.”

The plants are designed to bloom from early summer until the first frosts, offering a variety of shapes and colors to attract several types of insects. For example, butterflies need bigger petals to land compared to a small fly or a bee.

“Flowers are a different shape, so to attract butterflies, to attract beetles,” Erskine said.

“Flies, in particular, will pollinate light-colored, slightly fragrant flowers,” Harrold said. “Bees really like pinks, yellows and whites.”

This year, pollinator packs are focused on supporting monarch butterfly habitats. Each apartment will include milkweed, which, despite being Idaho’s official insect favorite plant, Erskine says is hard to find and difficult to germinate.

“There were a lot of monarchs in Idaho and now they’re rare,” Erskine said. “It’s very rare that you see a monarch in our state.”

Milkweed plants growing at Caldwell's Peaceful Belly Farm

By planting habitats for native pollinators, project officials hope to provide enough nectar in Treasure Valley to support the thousands of known insect species in our region.

“And you can do it in your garden. You can do it on your windowsill or on a porch in pots,” Erskin said. “And you can start to see it as, ‘I have wild animals visiting my garden,’ and that’s special!”

Project participants can also stay in touch throughout the summer by sharing updates, photos and social media posts.

“I would say from the time the plants start being collected until the end of the year, I cry every week because of something someone posted or something someone said. “, Erskine said. “Like right now I have a bit of tears because it’s amazing to be a part of something that brings so much hope and joy and it’s an honor to be able to do that through the plants.”

Customers can still pre-order pollinator packs online here. Plants will be ready for pick-up April 29-30 at Peaceful Belly Farm.