It’s August and a great opportunity for that awesome road trip! When I first learned to drive, my friends and I would speed down the highways seizing that first taste of freedom.

There was new wave music and laughter, and there was the need to constantly clean splattering insects off the windshield. There were big bugs, little bugs, some that crashed white, and some that splatted blood.

The bug morgue, as we called it, was pretty gross, and not something I thought we would ever reminisce about and still here I am.

Aside from annoying mosquitoes or flies, bugs weren’t something we often thought about. We took for granted the fireflies that marked our arrival after sunset, and the grasshoppers and butterflies that shared our picnic meadows.

Yet today, my children’s experience is far different. The honeybees that we disregarded in their abundance now make headlines due to their scarcity. Butterfly populations are disappearing. What used to be a given is becoming a crisis.

It turns out the insects that some ignored or believed to be a nuisance are necessary as part of a balanced ecosystem. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more services (air, water, food, benign weather systems, carbon dioxide sequestration, garbage recycling etc.) it will provide for us.

As an important biodiversity contributor, insects help nourish us physically, mentally and spiritually. They do everything from feeding all earth’s creatures, to cleaning up waste, to generating billions of dollars for the U.S. economy alone. Honeybees, essential for the pollination of flowers, fruits and vegetables, support about $20 billion worth of crop production in the U.S. annually.

One of the best ways to bring back helpful insects is to grow native plants. Your landscape will be more interesting and natural habitat will thank you by showing up. For example, monarch butterflies require milkweed (Asclepias) to survive. Native plants will also attract songbirds.

Throughout the country, planting efforts are underway, and FoHVOS Community Conservation partners including residents, businesses, school districts, and nonprofits throughout Hopewell Valley have been very successful in implementing native plant restoration projects.

While most meadows take years to establish, there is still some immediate gratification as the first flowers take bloom.

A visit to the Community Conservation area on the FoHVOS website shares scores of local native plant projects on public and private lands. The most recently dedicated garden is at Capital Health Medical Center.

Each year the Capital Health Auxiliary has a holiday fundraiser featuring an a cappella concert by the Hopewell Chambers choir, an annual holiday ornament and candle lighting dedicated to family and friends. This year they added a wildflower tribute.

Modeled after the FoHVOS tribute package. Each donor receives a framed certificate commemorating that a tree or wildflowers will be planted in honor of their loved one. In the Capital Health tribute, wildflowers were planned for their CHAI Healing garden.

The CHAI garden is hidden in a remote area near the second-floor infusion area. Many patients receive cancer therapies nearby and the garden features a bell rung to celebrate the final chemo treatment.

With the funds raised, we added bluestone steps leading to the bell, purple lovegrass, and a butterfly milkweed plant for every person honored in tribute.

Chai is the Hebrew word for “life,” which makes the new monarch garden especially fitting. The Chai garden was already a tranquil paradise, but the addition of the Monarch Memorial, featuring milkweed to attract butterflies, adds beautiful color, movement, and life for years to follow.

On July 16, Capital Health dedicated the Monarch Memorial Garden in a beautiful ceremony, replete with music, speeches, and refreshments.

You can plant your own monarch garden (with or without the fanfare of a dedication) and you will be rewarded with the arrival and celebration of life.

Join your friends and neighbors. No effort is too small. Convert a small patch of your lawn to native wildflowers. It’s an easy way for you to promote to a greener planet, attract some good insects, and contribute to happier habitat.

Lisa Wolff is executive director of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. Email: lwolff@fohvos.org.