By Mary Reid Barrow
A bumblebee with a striking black stripe between its wings and a big orange pollen sac on its leg was nectaring recently on Joe Pye weed in the new Wildlife Garden at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay.
The bee caught Westminster-Canterbury resident Janet Pawlukiewicz’s eye, because she had never seen a bee like it before.
Turns out the bee is a southern plains bumble bee whose numbers have declined dramatically recently, Janet said. Virginia lists the bee as an imperiled species.
Janet was thrilled because she led the Landscape Committee at Westminster-Canterbury that recommended and oversaw the creation of a number of new gardens at the retirement community. The committee focused on incorporating mostly native plants and removing invasive plants from the seaside landscape.
The arrival of the southern plains bumblebee that was drawn to Joe Pye weed, a native, was the symbolic pay-off for all the committee’s hard work.
“Build it and they will come,” Janet said
Like the bumblebee, many insects are flying into to the new gardens around the grounds. Before, the mostly barren grassy areas there didn’t have much food or shelter for insects.
But now, the critters have plants for pollen, nectar, and food for their young and native grasses in which to hide and nest. On a bright sunny day recently, bees, butterflies, wasps and insects of all descriptions were happily buzzing round the various new gardens, from front to back and all around Westminster-Canterbury.
Human visitors, too, are attracted to the gardens. You can’t help but know something is different when you drive up to the building entrance. You are welcomed by riotous beds of flowers, from yellow black-eyed Susans, to blue catmint, from purple coneflower to little blue stem grass, all growing in happy abundance. You also are greeted by a LRNow Pearl Neighborhood sign.
Janet brings a special background to this effort. She retired from the United States Environmental Protection Agency where she was working to support watershed organizations round the country. Prior to moving to Virginia Beach, she lived on the Northern Neck where she led the committee that published “Native Plants of the Northern Neck.” It is a companion book to our local. “Native Plants for Southeast Virginia including Hampton Roads Region.”
After she moved to Westminster-Canterbury, Janet chaired the Green Team and led the effort to become a LRNow Pearl Neighborhood. She also served as Vice President of the Virginia Native Plant Society. And just recently, she became a member of LRNow’s Board of Directors.
In addition, Janet has written a guide to the plants and insects in Westminster-Canterbury gardens that can be found is on the website, Residenthub.org/landscape.
In the guide’s introduction, Janet notes the decline in birds and insects around the country and the need for native plants to sustain them.
“We can make a difference!” Janet wrote. “Adding native plants to our landscape will provide food and shelter needed to sustain birds, butterflies, insects and other wildlife we cherish.”
The southern plains bumblebee would be the first to agree.
Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell? What relationships have you observed between plants and critters? Who eats whom? Who has babies where? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org