\u201cIf the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.\u201d \u2014Albert Einstein Wild geraniums, field thistle, golden Alexander, blue vervain \u2014 native plants that feed pollinating bees, birds and butterflies \u2014 will be planted along Main Street on Earth Day, Sunday April 22, kicking off Ridgefield\u2019s \u201cpollinator pathway.\u201d Earth Day weekend will also find Ridgefielders out picking up papers, bottles, cigarette butts, and other trash in the town\u2019s annual \u201cRid Litter Days\u201d cleanup, Saturday, April 21, and Sunday. The spring cleanup along roadsides, and in parks and school grounds, is a longstanding Ridgefield tradition. But the Earth Day planting launches Ridgefield\u2019s first town-wide initiative to benefit pollinators. \u201cThey need pollen, they need food, they need nectar, they need water, they need not to have pesticides sprayed,\u201d said Kitsey Snow, a Conservation Commission member and one of the organizers of the Ridgefield Pollinator Pathway initiative. Snow pointed to a German study, highlighted recently in The New York Times, that found a 76% decline in flying insects over the last 25 years. \u201cIt\u2019s a pretty serious problem. Bugs are really important,\u201d she said. \u201cPeople think they\u2019re pests, but they\u2019re not \u2014 they\u2019re really important.\u201d Some 35% of the world\u2019s food supply is dependent on pollinators, she said. Rid litter The rid litter effort encourages people to take spring cleaning beyond their own yards. \u201cIt\u2019s for pride and beauty in your town. If everybody helped for 15 minutes, what a difference it would make,\u201d said Barbara Hartman of the Caudatowa Garden Club, who\u2019s organizing this year\u2019s effort along with the cleanup\u2019s founder, Beth Yanity. \u201cMost people pick up their own property. You have to think a little beyond, look around the schools, the parks, do your street.\u201d People may pick up wherever they choose over the weekend, then drop the trash bags off at four designated spots: Farmingville School, East Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield High School, and the Fox Hill Lake beach area off Bennetts Farm Road. The town highway department will pick them up Monday. Trash bags and safety vests \u2014 newly designed this year by Highway Department administrator Ellen Rossini \u2014 are available in advance at the Recreation Center off Route 35 or the Chamber of Commerce at 13 Grove Street. Bags will also be available at the RVNA Health Day on Saturday. \u201cRidgefield Hardware donates the pickup bags,\u201d Hartman said. The effort is growing. \u201cIn 2016 we collected 880 pounds of litter. And in 2017, 1,440 pounds,\u201d Hartman said. \u201cOur goal this year is 2,000 \u2014 or a ton. \u201cWe would ask,\u201d she added, \u201cthat people do not clean out their garage and put old cans of paint and hazardous waste in these bags.\u201d Pollinator paths The pollinator initiative begins Sunday, April 22, with volunteers planting pollinator gardens from noon to 2 p.m. at four prominent properties along Main Street \u2014 Jesse Lee\u2019s nursery school, Keeler Tavern, the Aldrich Museum, and the Casagmo condominiums. \u201cWe\u2019re meeting at the Community Center parking lot, and we\u2019ll divide people up as they arrive,\u201d said Snow. \u201cAnd they need to bring shovels.\u201d Plants and refreshments are being provided by Ridgefield Rotary, the outdoor supplies retailer REI of Norwalk, the Conservation Commission, and the Norwalk River Watershed Association. There\u2019s a regional aspect, said Snow, a member of the Ridgefield Garden Club and the Norwalk River Watershed Association, as well as the Conservation Commission \u2014 three of 10 environmentally conscious organizations sponsoring the pollinator effort. \u201cIt was started by Donna Merrill of the Wilton Land Conservation Trust,\u201d she said. Local environmentalists are looking to expand the program into Ridgefield, and now more neighboring towns. \u201cRedding is interested. Danbury is interested. I think Norwalk is interested. New Canaan, Weston, North Salem, Lewisboro,\u201d Snow said. \u201cThe Norwalk River Valley Trail has agreed to be part of it as well. Wherever they\u2019re disturbing land to build the trial, they\u2019ve agreed to let us plant native plants,\u201d she said. The Ridgefield organizers have \u201cpathways\u201d they hope to get planted with pollinator-friendly gardens. \u201cThe idea being that we plant pollinator gardens all along the pathway,\u201d said Leonorre Herbst of the Woodcock Nature Center, which is supporting the effort. \u201cA key distance, apparently, is every 750 feet they need a plant they can land on \u2014 that can be a tree, a shrub, a flower \u2014 and they need to be in succession, so there needs to be plants that are blooming in the spring, in the summer and in the fall,\u201d Snow said. \u201cSuccession planting. We need plants that are blooming in all three seasons,\u201d she said. \u201cSome pollinators are migrating. Some are going north in the spring and south in the fall, and they need places to stop.\u201d The effort isn\u2019t limited. \u201cWe don\u2019t want it to be just along the pathway, we want everybody,\u201d Snow said. \u201cPeople need to get to know what invasive plants are, because a lot of the plight of these pollinators is due to these invasive plants overtaking the native plants,\u201d Snow said. There\u2019s a list of about 20 plants, 20 trees and 20 shrubs organizers want planted. The garden club plant sale at Ballard Greenhouse, May 11 and 12 from 9 to 2, will offer pollinator-friendly native plants. Websites the pollinator advocates suggest for information and lists of valuable native plants include pollinator-pathway.org, ladybug.uconn.edu, bringbackthepollinators.org, and gobotany.newenglandwild.org. Mowing fields Certain plants are vital. \u201cSome of these pollinators are really species-specific,\u201d Snow said. Monarch butterflies need milkweed \u2014 for egg-laying, and it\u2019s all they eat in their caterpillar stage. In Richardson Park, routine mowing of milkweed has been curtailed for pollinators the last few years. \u201cWe\u2019ve had great success there,\u201d said Hartman. \u201cWe used to have zero butterflies. And last year I saw 15 or 20.\u201d \u201cCaterpillars are really important, too,\u201d said Snow, \u201cbecause they provide 100% of the food for baby birds.\u201d \u201cBaby birds cannot eat seeds,\u201d Hartman added. \u201cThey need mushy things.\u201d So field mowing should be limited. \u201cYou can\u2019t mow this stuff in the middle of the summer. It kills all the milkweed and all the other native pollinator plants,\u201d said Snow. \u201cField mowing should occur in the spring, but not when the ground is too wet.\u201d \u201cNo mowing between May 1 and Nov. 1,\u201d said Hartman. Native plant species are important because they\u2019re what local creatures eat. \u201cNative white oaks support over 550 species of caterpillars. Ginko trees, on the other hand, which are not native, support zero,\u201d said Hartman. Lawn perfectionism is another concern. \u201cA good lawn is not really a good thing,\u201d Hartman said. \u201cA green lawn is a wasteland, especially since everybody hires commercial lawn companies to come in with herbicides and pesticides. If they kill all the dandelions, they kill all the clover \u2014 bees love clover. \u201cAnd then they fertilize it like crazy,\u201d Snow added, \u201cand all the fertilizer runs off into the water.\u201d Pollinator advocates urge people not to overreact to leaves with bites taken out. \u201cIt shows the insects have been eating the leaves, which is what they need to do to thrive,\u201d said Snow. \u201cA little munching is not a bad thing, and you don\u2019t want to spray it, or call your tree guy and get them in. Then you\u2019ve killed off all your caterpillars.\u201d Leaf eating can reach a point that it\u2019s problematic \u2014 as periodic gypsy moth infestations demonstrate. \u201cDecimation may be another story,\u201d Hartman said. But spraying should be approached cautiously. \u201cPesticides are not species-specific,\u201d said Snow. \u201cThey\u2019re not just killing ticks, they\u2019re not just killing mosquitoes \u2014 they\u2019re killing all insects. And ticks and mosquitoes, frankly, are bird food and frog food and bat food. \u201cThere is no organic pesticide that is good for pollinators. If you use a pesticide, you\u2019re going to kill good bugs,\u201d Snow said. \u201cI\u2019m learning to love the dandelions and clover. The bees are happy.\u201d Slideshow photos by Dave Cronin.