St. Vincent College's Pollinator Garden caters to bees, butterflies, birds, moths
By Greg Reinbold
Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 8:16 p.m.
Master Gardeners with the Penn State Cooperative Extension were on hand during a recent open house to promote the Pollinator Garden at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College.
In addition to serving as a peaceful and picturesque retreat near the campus, the garden plays an important role in Penn State's pollinator research projects.
Volunteers conduct monthly counts of four types of bees at pollinator gardens in every county of the state, and each pollinator garden certified by Penn State for the counts must contain the same pollinator-attracting plants.
“When the older monks left or didn't garden anymore, these beds sat idle,” said Penn State Master Gardener Ron Patun, who designed the three raised-bed gardens filled with native plants. “I took over three beds full of heavy weeds. We dug all the weeds out; we rototilled; we prepared all the soil. And at the same time, Penn State was coming up with their pollinator program, so we adapted it so this garden is certified by Penn State to be a pollinator garden. Some of the plants I put in here meet those requirements.”
The garden plots at the nature reserve are filled with dozens of native plants and herbs, all of them particularly attractive to pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds and moths.
“This is the one that's full of honeybees now,” Patun said as he walked past a catmint plant. “The honeybees are coming out of the apiary, and they're coming over here. ... It's just loaded with them. All day long, they're there.
“This is about ready to open, and then the bees will be there, and they'll be here because they like oregano,” Patun added a few steps farther down the plot beside some Greek oregano.
Curt Fisher, another Master Gardener, showed off the hive of honeybees stationed a few yards from one of the garden plots and stressed the importance of the insects as pollinators.
“I've been a beekeeper for 50 or 60 years as a hobbyist,” Fisher said. “I enjoy the bees. I like working with them, and they're so essential to our lifestyle. We have to have the honeybee — that's all there is to it.”
He helps fledgling beekeepers get their hives started off right.
“I started out by selling some bees. Every spring, people were looking for bees. Then they don't know what to do with them, so I started answering their questions, and then it just developed into almost a full-time job where I am answering the phone all day long and trying to advise them,” Fisher said. “It has worked out. I don't know how many beekeepers in this county or this tri-state area that I have mentored, but it's a lot. Last year, I know there were 18 beekeepers that I had hands-on with them. This year, there's probably going to be 25 or 30, plus others that call me.”
With honeybee populations worldwide mysteriously in decline, pollinator gardens like the one at Winnie Palmer become increasingly important.
“The strawberry blossom that you or I see, it's a beautiful blossom. But when a honeybee looks at that, they will see up to 200 different blossoms in there that they have to (pollinate), and it takes 10 to 12 days of visiting the strawberry blossom in order to make it produce what it should produce,” Fisher said. “The next time you eat a strawberry, check the little stones you see on the outside. Those are where a blossom was. Blueberry production has increased three- or four-fold by the use of honeybees in order to pollinate them. Almonds — we wouldn't have almonds without honeybees.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Derry Area School District to honor 4 late teachers in schoolhouse ceremony
- Alaska’s Iditarod Trail challenges Unity couple
- Funds multiply for Derry K-9 officer’s new vehicle