Native pollinators are extremely important members of any ecosystem, and should be cared for and stewarded especially by those of us who grow gardens. Pollinators include insects that help plants turn their blossoms into fruits and vegetables, as well as hummingbirds and bats. These creatures work hard to provide us with the food we eat, support biological diversity and protect wildlife survival. Use our short guide on pollinators to learn how to create landscape friendly to the native pollinators in your yard that will help sustain the health of our natural world.
Studies have shown that animal and insect pollinators are necessary for the reproduction of about 90 percent of flowering plants and one-third of the food crops we humans consume. We all depend on these busy bees, moths, beetles, birds and bats to provide us with many of the foods we eat on a daily basis, but also to maintain healthy ecosystems and provide habitat and food for wildlife. Abundant and vigorous pollinator populations make a significant difference in fruit set and quality and increase production per acre.
Unfortunately, we have seen large declines in the populations of most pollinators, and their well-being is suffering. Many factors have contributed to this, including habitat destruction which leads to loss of sites for mating, nesting, roosting and migration, use of pesticides, disease, predators and parasites, lack of floral diversity and climate change.
Below are a few ways that you can contribute to the well being of pollinators and enjoy the fruits of their labor:
Plant pollinator attracting flowers and herbs: Add native flowers and flowering plants to your garden in large clumps to help your pollinators find them. Try to use native plants adapted to your local soil, climate and native pollinators. You can also choose any plants from the list below, which can generally be grown in any state, unless they are on the invasive species list for your state.
Lavender – Lavandula
Rosemary – Rosemarinus officinalis
Sage - Salvia
Coneflower – Echinacea
Sunflower – Helianthus
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia
Oregano – Origanum
Yarrow – Achilliea millefolium
Catnip – Nepeta
Try not to plant hybrids: Many modern hybrid plants have been bred to look perfect and beautiful, but often lack the fragrance, pollen and nectar essential for pollinators.
Plant food for larvae: Use a butterfly guide to learn which plants your local and native butterflies prefer. Plant them in a spot in your garden where you don’t mind caterpillars and larvae having a little munch.
Never use pesticides: Pesticides are toxic to pollinators, especially to honeybees. They are harmful to all pollinators and can introduce many predators, diseases and even allow for the evolution of “super-pests.”
Feed your hummingbirds: Invite hummingbirds into your garden by setting up a hummingbird feeder and filling it with an artificial nectar made with 4 parts water to 1 part white sugar (don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners). Make sure to clean your feeder well with hot water and soap every few weeks.
Let your veggies go to seed: If you find toward the end of a growing season that you have far too much of one vegetable in your plot, let it blossom and go to seed. This will provide food for pollinators and provide you with seed that you can gather for the next round of planting.
Educate yourself further about pollinators: To learn more about pollinators, their inherent importance, and how to care for them visit the Pollinator Partnership. You’ll find guides on pollinators for specific habitats across the USA, alongside information on how to become actively involved in sustaining the well being of pollinator populations.
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Image: Gene Wilburn