Bees and insects may seem like a nuisance, but they are more important to your garden than you may know. On Sunday, June 2 at 11:00 am, the URI Master Gardeners, who help maintain Prescott Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island, will be doing their part to encourage other local gardeners and community members to join an important cause: the conservation of declining insect pollinators.

Back by popular demand, the URI Master Gardeners, have invited State Wildlife Biologist, Gary Casabona, to return to Prescott Farm to give a talk and walking tour of the historic property from the perspective of a biologist. Casabona works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is a leading expert on the subject of pollination and has made several appearances throughout New England promoting the benefits that native pollinators provide.

In his Native Plant Walk, Casabona will take fellow gardeners and guests on a tour throughout all areas of the farm discussing topics such as the life history of bumblebees and other native pollinators, and the best herbaceous plant species to provide pollen, nectar and nesting sites. He will give tips on site preparation and seeding practices for native wildflowers, as well as how to maintain established pollinator habitats. Casabona is at the forefront of this area of study, and can touch on recent developments in the field, for instance, how bees can self-medicate!

It is estimated that without pollinators, 50 percent of the food people eat would disappear from grocery stores. The problem is human development practices have greatly reduced the habitat for native bees. Casabona explains pollinators are, “part of the wildlife food web.” Through his talks with the public at Prescott Farm, he is able to explain which plants are invasive and should be removed, and which are best for wildlife to thrive. This is the third year Casabona will return to Prescott Farm for this program. Casabona said, “The farm is very picturesque, but the main reason [to return again] is the size and enthusiasm of the audience that has showed up the last two years.  In general, I love visiting Aquidneck Island too!”

Casabona has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in Wildlife Biology from Virginia Tech. He worked for NRCS for 14 years in New Jersey before moving to Rhode Island in 2011. His current work involves habitat projects for New England cottontail, native pollinators, shrub land nesting birds, wetland restoration, fish passage and oyster restoration.

The Native Plant Walk will be held Sunday, June 2 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm at Prescott Farm, located at 2009 West Main Road, Middletown, RI. Every Sunday, volunteers of the URI Master Gardeners work at the gardens of Prescott Farm. Also, every second Sunday of the month the Master Gardeners share their areas of expertise through regular lectures, with topics varying each session. For more information on this event as well as Second Sundays, visit newportrestoration.org/events.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).