Gardening for Pollinators
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You can think of pollinators as matchmakers in the flowering plant world. They transfer pollen from flower to flower as they forage for pollen or nectar. The result is pollination that allows the production of fruits and seeds. About 75% of flowering plant species require an animal or insect, called a pollinator, for the process of pollination.
Pollinators include birds, bats and other vertebrates, but the most numerous are insects. About 200,000 species! These include bees, beetles, wasps, flies, butterflies, and even some ants. Habitat loss and pesticides have caused the decline of pollinators in recent years. We can help insect pollinators make a comeback by providing a pesticide free habitat. You can plant a pollinator garden or section dedicated to them by, providing flowering plants, habitat modifications, and minimize if not eliminate the use of pesticides.
Plant a diversity of flowers that will bloom all season. Include native flowering plants. Planting flowers in clumps makes it easier for pollinators find them. If you want colorful butterflies, plant host plants so their caterpillars will have something to eat. Modern hybrid flowers especially those with double flowers are poor sources of food for pollinators. Some plants to consider include asters, butterfly bush, fennel, lantana, borage, oregano, sunflower, coneflower, bee balm, salvia, and yarrow.
Pollinators also benefit from having suitable habitat, where they can live and reproduce. Don’t mulch everywhere, leave some bare ground where native bees can dig holes for their nests. These nests are their brood chambers, where larva feed on provisions and pupate. Also, leave some dead trees or branches as these provide nesting sites for native bees. Make sure the dead wood is not a safety hazard to those who visit your garden. Native bees are often small and generally won’t sting. You can build or buy boxes with drilled holes for wood nesting bees. There are plenty of native bees and other native pollinators around.
Do some research or keep a journal to discover what flowers different pollinators visit and when throughout the season they’re around. Above all have some fun!
Written By Stephen Wesley Master GardenerSM volunteer