Happy June and happy pollinator month! It may not be a surprise that with increasing population and housing development, pollinators are on the decline. They are also threatened by disease and the excessive use of pesticides. Now, more than ever, is there a push to reintroduce habitat and bring pollinators back to our landscapes. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, birds, and beetles.
As humans, we rely heavily on pollinators in the most practical sense: they provide us with a wide range of food to eat. Beyond that, however, pollinators are part of the intricate web that supports and fosters biological diversity in our ecosystem which sustains our quality of life. Whether you have a small garden or a large portion of land, anyone can have a positive impact by providing the essentials for pollinators: food, water, and shelter.
Flowers provide nectar and pollen to foraging insects. Nectar provides sugar and amino acids while pollen is high in protein. A diversity of plants support a variety of pollinators. Plant flowers of different color, fragrance, season, and height to attract different species. Doing this also provides pollen and nectar throughout the seasons. And speaking of seasons, plant with bloom season in mind to provide food from early spring to late fall.
Planting in groups creates efficiency for pollinators and they can transfer pollen to the same flower species, rather than squandering the pollen on unreceptive flowers. Many herbs and even some annuals are a good source of food. Examples include chives, thyme, oregano, parsley, and lavender. While dandelions are commonly viewed as weeds from a landscape perspective, many pollinators are attracted to dandelions. Even if you do not want to keep dandelions, consider hand removing them rather than spraying. Chemical residues of pesticides are largely toxic to pollinators. Consider implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to cut back on chemical use.
Just like humans, insects need clean and reliable water sources to stay healthy. Natural and man-made water features like running water, ponds, birdbaths, and other containers of water provide drinking and bathing opportunities for pollinators. Water sources should have shallow or sloping sides so pollinators can approach the water with ease and without drowning.
Pollinators need protection. Whether it be from predators, weather, or just a place to rest, shelter is necessary. Incorporate various canopies in your landscape by planting trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses as different pollinators find shelter in different levels. Grouping plantings together also provides protection to safely move throughout the landscape hidden from predators.
Honeybees are arguably the most well known type of pollinator bee and it is no secret they form hives. However, many native bees actually live in the ground or in hollowed out holes of trees, shrubs, and rocks. Leave some areas of soil exposed for ground-dwelling bees and other ground-nesting insects for easy access to tunnels. Incorporate plants for butterflies and moths in their larval stages. Plant shrubs that have thorns for protected nesting for birds. Even leaf litter or plant debris can act as shelter.
Every effort towards saving and protecting pollinators makes a difference. Integrate native and non-native plants into your landscapes. Get inspired by other gardens around the valley. Shop at local garden centers and nurseries. Franz Witte strives for environmental excellence, and as members of the horticulture industry we want to steward our land and pollinators well. Attached is just one example of a pollinator plant list. Notice the diversity in colors and plant type, season long and year round interest, and diverse array of pollinators the plants attract.
By Riley Rehberg