A Pollinator Meadow is Planned at the Government Center (GC)

March 21, 2016
For Immediate Release

A Pollinator Meadow is Planned at the Government Center (GC)

 A Pollinator Meadow is Planned at the Government Center

Dying honeybee populations are said to be a worldwide problem. The causes range from an insecticide containing neonicotinoids, to disease-carrying parasites such as the Varroa mite, to the elimination of habitat.

  • In 2011, nearly 12 million bees died in Florida
  • In 2012, 37 million bees died at a Canadian beekeeping operation
  • Again, in 2012, 25,000 dead bees were found in a parking lot in Oregon

Researchers who write articles for scientific journals say bees are dying in 'biblical' proportions; but it isn't just the bees. "A study published in Nature found bird populations in the Netherlands dropped more sharply in areas where (the pesticide) containing neonicotinoids was highest," wrote Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post, July 10, 2014," Saving Honeybees."

According to one researcher who was quoted in the Washington Post article, "We're wiping insects off of many surfaces of the globe and it's hard to think what won't be affected by this wholesale loss of biodiversity."

Honeybees, in addition to hundreds of other bee species, carry pollen from plant to plant, fertilizing along the way. Without them, people would not have many foods that are important to human health and enjoyment. Pollinators fertilize potatoes, broccoli, blueberries, squash, almonds, cocoa and many flowering plants. These hard working insects help pollinate more than 75 percent of flowering plants and crops. Birds, wasps, moths, bats, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and flies are pollinators, as well.

An emerging partnership among Fairfax County agencies, in support of the Board of Supervisors' Matter to Protect and Support Bee Populations, hopes to make a difference in this little corner of the world by creating a pollinator meadow on Government Center grounds.

"There are a number of advantages to installing a pollinator meadow in the Resource Protection Area here at the GC," said Suzy Foster, landscape architect III, Stormwater Planning Division (SWPD). "It's about one acre altogether near the ellipse that will be taken out of the mowing and maintenance schedule, which saves time and money," Suzy said. "We'll help the bees and other pollinators to flourish in the meadow, which will assist their populations to survive. With the meadow in our back yard we can easily keep an eye on its progress, and we can use the meadow as a public education tool about the value of pollinators," she said.

The plants to be used will support hundreds of pollinator species including native bees. The meadow will be developed in multiple phases over several years to make sure it's healthy. Development phases include site preparation, meadow installation, volunteer and staff planting days, invasive species control, monitoring and adaptive management.

A pollinator meadow at the Government Center that is open to the public 24 hours a day sets an example of what homeowners can do on their own properties. Large or small plot gardeners can promote and protect pollinators by installing a variety of native plants in flower and vegetable gardens. Native plants grow well in this climate and soil because they are indigenous to the region. Also, native plants promote rain water infiltration and prevent polluted stormwater runoff from entering streams.

An unnamed tributary to Difficult Run on GC property was restored recently; the ponds were dredged and the stream was reconnected to the floodplain. Adding a nearby pollinator meadow enhances the stream restoration by helping to prevent nitrogen and phosphorus from reaching the water, and provides an aesthetic and a public education amenity.

To accomplish all of this, a partnership was formed recently with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Facilities Management Department, Stormwater Planning Division, the County Executive's Office, the Board of Supervisors, Fairfax Master Naturalists and Gardeners, the Fairfax County Park Authority, Fairfax County Public Schools and Earth Sangha.

SWPD will provide funding, design, contracting support, coordination and oversight for the installation of the meadow. The land use conversion credit will be applied to the county's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. Buffer restoration will take place in a few years, there will be volunteer and staff planting days, invasive plant species control, monitoring and supplemental planting when necessary.

"For the most part, meadows with native species take care of themselves with one or two mowings per year at carefully determined times," Suzy Foster said. Periodic mowing promotes the health and growth of native plant species.

Update March 21, 2016

Plans for the Government Center Meadow Moving Forward

The pollinator meadow is planned for the north side of the government center (GC) between the asphalt trail and the forest edge. Contractors will be removing unhealthy trees, installing silt fencing, cutting down invasive vines, and preparing and seeding a portion of the lawn to create the meadow that will improve water quality and support hundreds of native plant pollinators. On May 12 and 14, volunteers will install two thousand native plants to supplement the seeding and provide color and food for wildlife while the meadow grows in over the next two years.

This project is a partnership between the County Executive's Office, Facilities Management Department, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, Earth Sangha and the Office of Public Affairs. The site was selected because it is within the Resource Protection Area of a small stream. The meadow will restore a healthy stream buffer, filter runoff and remove nutrients and sediment that would otherwise enter the stream which leads to Difficult Run and the Potomac River. Native plants will improve the soil and support numerous native insects, birds and small mammals. Among these are insect pollinators which are critical for ensuring successful seed production of most of our native plants as well as our most important food crops. These insects are also the basis of the food web. They eat the plants and are in turn eaten by larger animals.

Planting a meadow next the government center supports the county's environmental agenda and efforts to enhance county landscapes to improve water quality, reduce energy usage and better the lives of people and wildlife. For more information about the pollinator meadow, call the information officer at 703-324-5821 TTY 711.

To volunteer to work either or both of the pollinator meadow planting days on Thursday, May 12 or Saturday, May 14, please visit the volunteer sign up site.


Contact: Irene Haske
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services 
703-324-5821 TTY 711

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