Noe Valley Voice July-August 2009

Butterfly and Bee Attractions

By Heather World

A dozen Noe Valley families who have spent June planting a nectar nirvana for honeybees and butterflies will give away seeds and seedlings that their children have sprouted, at the Noe Valley Farmers' Market on Saturday, July 25. The group should be easy to spot: the children will be wearing bee and butterfly costumes and working a puppet show.

The planting and the giveaway come from a $3,000 grant the B & B group got in 2008 from First Five San Francisco. First Five S.F. gears its grants to the zero to five set, so the families proposed an educational program that involved field trips, crafts, and plantings to teach children about life cycles, ecological interdependence, and the importance of caring about the environment. They also hope to create a bee-butterfly corridor in Noe Valley.

"There's such a richness to honeybees and butterflies," says Beth Saiki, the mother who wrote the grant. Children, including Saiki's 4-year-old daughter and 22-month-old son, always stop to look at the insects, making them a natural teaching tool, she says, adding, "As humans, we are dependent on our pollinators to produce fruits and vegetables for our tables."

The grant covered gardening supplies, picnic food, plants, and soil.

The group has spent the first half of this year learning about the fluttering and buzzing creatures. In February they visited the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove to see 16,000 monarchs overwintering in eucalyptus trees. In April they visited Gabriel Farms in Sebastopol, when its fruit orchard was in bloom. The kids also learned about beekeeping and watched a honey extraction.

Now they have begun to plant their back yards with plants that attract insects. "The children love to dig in soil and watch plants sprout from seeds and grow flowers that will draw these beautiful winged insects," Saiki says.

For the July giveaway at the farmers market--held on 24th Street between Sanchez and Vicksburg from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.--the families have included what helpful information they could in flyers that will go home with the seeds and seedlings.

In September the group finishes its project back at Gabriel Farms, where they will pick apples and enjoy the fruits of the pollination watched the year before.