Luring Pollinators to Our Gardens
MAR. 05, 2022
Spring is on our doorsteps and wisps of delights-to-come are floating through our gardens and with some of these March winds, racing through. And we’re often gladdened now by early crocuses, snow drops, and the green stems of soon-to-be daffodils and tulips poking up, growing hour-by-hour. In our gardens, pollinators—those helpful bees, beetles, and even a few moths—are making their way among the awakening plants, sipping any nectar that may be available and carrying pollen from bud to bud, flower to flower.
Let’s consider how we can improve our gardens and help the pollinators who help our gardens glow with life and color. What is pollination? Who pollinates? What’s the importance of pollinators to us? How can we make small and large changes in our gardens to support these busy birds, bees, and other animals?
To produce flowers or fruit, plants require the addition of pollen; insects and some animals collect pollen on their bodies from male plants and deposit that pollen on female plants of the same species.
Types of Pollinators:
Bees are our most prolific and efficient pollinators. Birds (particularly Hummingbirds), butterflies, moths, beetles, and bats distribute the pollen clinging to their bodies among the plants. Even some small mammals do their part to move that pollen around, capturing pollen on fur and snouts.
So what? Just a few facts about the impact these sometimes-pesky little bees, beetles, and birds have on our lives:
• 75 percent of Earth’s flowering plants rely on insect and animal pollinators. • Healthy plants of all types clean the air, stabilize the soil, provide oxygen, and support wildlife. • That’s approximately 180,000 types of plants, 1,200 of which are food crops. • One-third of the food we regularly consume depends directly on the efforts of pollinators. • In the U.S. alone, pollination by Honeybees accounted for $19 billion of our nation’s crop productivity, according to the 2010 National Parks Services records. An additional $10 billion in crop productivity was attributable to other pollinators. • Add to our nation’s agriculture productivity, approximately $700 million flowed into the economy from U.S. Honeybee products and services.
But there are big problems facing our tiny pollinators:
• Tragically, Honeybees have diminished by over 50 percent since 1974. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services; a great part of that loss of our bee population can be traced to Climate Change.
• Monarch Butterflies, those beautiful, golden creatures that travel over 3,000 miles in their fall migration, have decreased in 25 years from counts of 383 million to 4.5 million; that’s a loss of 88 percent of those glorious butterflies.
That’s only a bit of the big picture on pollinators. You may be wondering what all this information has to do with us and our flowerbeds and gardens here in Maryland? Well, possibly quite a bit! In our own small ways, we may be able to support and protect our pollinators, even encourage their adaptation and survival. Here are some easy garden adaptations that can make a difference:
• When you’re shopping for a few new plants to add to your beds, consider “host” plants, such as parsley and fennel, that are favorite eggs laying locations for moths and butterflies.
• Avoid introducing and remove invasive plants; they choke out native varieties. Among those culprits are some all-too-familiar plants; burning bushes, pampas grass, and golden bamboo. Even rose-of-Sharon and butterfly bushes are problematic.
• Add a water feature—a birdbath, a small pond, or simply a dish of water that can supply insects and birds with fresh water on warm days.
• Avoid pesticides since their purpose is to destroy insect populations. Even microbial and botanical pesticides are going to kill insects. Instead, why not add insect-repelling plants to your garden? Here are a few safe choices:
• Anticipating trouble with flies and mosquitoes? Plant basil.
• Moths and fleas worry you? Lovely lavender can help.
• For mosquitoes, lemongrass and marigolds are effective repellents.
• Long-blooming and big-blossoms plants are two big favorites with pollinators. Our state flower, the Black-Eyed Susan, zinnias, hydrangea, coreopsis, marigolds, and many more will please you and your helpful pollinators.
• A little bit messy is good: This may be a tough one to stick to, but avoid over-tidying, keep some light garden debris—fallen leaves, tiny sticks, and other detritus. They can serve as nesting material for birds and as hiding places for the tiny beetles and ants who can help with pollinating your plants’ blossoms.
When you implement some of these simple suggestions, you’ll be joining over 50,000 landowners across the country that have completed over 60,000 Habitat Restoration Projects on more than 6 million acres, under the leadership of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. You may want to join that project; check it out at fws.gov, or learn more at the Pollinators Partnership nappc.org.
MAR. 05, 2022