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The Buzz at WVU Parkersburg

by Rebecca Rhodes

A world without wasps is a world without Fig Newtons.

The Environmental Action Group (EAG), now known as the Ecohawks of WVU Parkersburg, completed phase one of the Pollinator Project; an effort to attract wasps, bees and butterflies to increase pollination.

According to the Ecohawks’ Co-Advisor, Dr. Rebecca Phillips, humans need pollination from bees and butterflies because produce like apples, tomatoes and pumpkins rely on them. Fig trees solely count on wasps for pollination.

“At least 25 percent of our food is dependent on insects. This means it is in our best interest to keep the pollinators happy and healthy,” Phillips said.

Last spring, the Ecohawks received a $3,000 grant from the FirstEnergy Foundation to design and establish a pollinator garden.

WVU Parkersburg granted a visible space in front of the welding tower for the project. Andrew Clovis, a training master naturalist and gardener, designed the garden.

“It is site appropriate, pollinator friendly and beautiful,” Phillips said.

Phase one of the Pollinator Project included stripping the plot and volunteers planting a mix of shrubs and perennials. Also, the WVU Parkersburg Foundation donated two dogwood trees that were used in the spring 2016 graduation ceremony.

Davis Nurseries stripped the plot and provided initial planting. All but one of the plants are native to West Virginia.

The project is currently in phase two which includes designing plant labels and a sign announcing the pollinator garden. In addition to purchasing signage, the Ecohawks are in the process of gathering more species including milkweed.

“Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed,” Phillips said. Not only do monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, but their caterpillars eat only that plant.

In this phase, the geology department will make their mark by adding native stone to the garden.

“We are attempting to reuse the third floor bathroom rock as stepping stones for the garden. In addition, the geology department will be dedicating several rocks,” Valerie Keinath, geology instructor and the Ecohawks’ co-advisor, said.

In phase three, the club hopes to work with the biology department to get a species list from the walking trail and order plant signs accordingly.

Moreover, EAG plans to develop a mobile app that will narrate the trail through the use of scannable QR codes found on the plant signs.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Ecohawks at eag@wvup.edu

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