The sight of bees buzzing from flower to flower and butterflies floating in the air are a sure sign of a fruitful garden. Not only are pollinators beautiful, but they’re crucial to our survival as a species. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of over 1/3 of the crops we eat. The prosperity of pollinators is important for our health, our well-being and the ecosystems in which we live. Not only are pollinators good for us, they’re good for our gardens.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member JG D70S
Why does your garden need pollinators?
Bees are keystone species, meaning many other species rely on them to survive. When bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers, they pollinate those flowers, which allows them to produce fruit, which in turn feeds the local wildlife, and us humans as well.
If you grow vegetables and fruit that require a pollinator in order to reproduce, it’s in your favor to attract those pollinators to your garden. They’ll do all the work of helping your plants reproduce and you get to sit back and enjoy the resulting bounty of food.
Another great reason to attract pollinators is to add to the beauty of your garden. There’s nothing more picturesque than colorful butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, or hummingbirds buzzing through the air.
Meet the pollinators
These tiny migratory birds pull their weight, and more, in the world of pollination. Hummingbirds are known to move pollen over great distances, assisting in the propagation of many species of plants.
Honeybees: Perhaps the most well known in the bee kingdom, the honeybee is useful not only for plant pollination, but for making honey as well.
Bumblebees: These low flying bees are best known for their size and unmistakable buzzing sound. They begin foraging in early spring and love low-growing flowers like clover.
Mason bees: Mason bees are most prolific in the spring when they gather pollen and nectar from the first blooms. They build nests in trees where they lay eggs and leave pollen for their brood. Many gardeners build mason bee houses to encourage these pollinators in their garden
Butterflies and moths
Butterflies and moths are common and beautiful pollinators. The most prolific pollinators include the silvery blue butterfly and the two-tailed tiger swallowtail.
Beetles: Flower beetles and soldier beetles feed on flowers and carry pollen from plant to plant.
Pollen wasps: These look just like a yellow jacket but don’t sting; these wasps are expert pollinators.
Hoverflies: You might mistake these for bees as their coloring and behavior are so similar. Hoverflies aren’t as industrious as bees, but do their part in pollination.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Louise Docker
Conditions that attract pollinators
- Stay away from chemical sprays. Herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers are quick killers of helpful pollinators.
- Grow plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season. This will ensure you’re feeding pollinators from spring through fall.
- Plant a rainbow in your garden. Put in plants that bloom in a wide variety of colors. Bees and butterflies have a keen sense of sight and are attracted to a range of different colors.
- Provide a water source for pollinators. A small birdbath or shallow bowl filled with decorative stones, shells or marbles can provide a welcome water source and resting spot for birds, butterflies and bees.
- Grow plants that are native to your area. Plants that would naturally grow in your area are more appealing to your local pollinators, and they’re much easier for you to grow and maintain.
- Plant your pollinator attractors in sunny spots, and include many of the same type of plant in close proximity. Planting patches of flowers rather than individual plants allows pollinators to forage more efficiently.
- Avoid using weed cloth or mulch and allow your garden to have bare patches of soil for bees to burrow underground.
Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr member Forest Wander
Plants that attract pollinators
- Trumpet vine
- Black eyed Susan
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