Providing for Pollinators

Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of the flowering plant, thereby enabling fertilization and reproduction. A pollinator is the agent (insect) that moves the pollen to accomplish fertilization.

Recent reports have shown a decline in pollinator populations. This is largely due to loss of habitat as a result of contemporary farming, urban land management practices and overuse of pesticides.

While domesticated European honeybees carry the lion’s share of agricultural pollination, native bees and other insects play an important role as well.

This garden demonstrates the type of mostly native plants that can be grown to provide nectar and pollen for native bees, bugs, beetles and butterflies. By providing a variety of blooms throughout the season, a garden can help sustain the earliest spring bees to the latest fall butterflies.

How to make a garden habitat for pollinators

Use native plants
The best choice for native pollinators are native plants. Non-native plants may not provide enough nectar or pollen or may be inedible to butterflies or moths and their caterpillars.

Offer host plants for growing caterpillars
Many field guides to butterflies and moths will indicate the host plants for various species. With a little bit of research, you can learn what plants attract egg-laying butterflies and moths.

Design with large groupings of plants
Bees tend to visit one kind of flower at a time. By growing large groupings of one kind of plant, rather than scattered through the garden, the bees can achieve better foraging efficiency.

Offer a diversity of species
Choose a variety of plants with abundant pollen and nectar and varying bloom time throughout the season and choose plants that are hosts for butterfly and moth caterpillars, such as milkweed for monarch butterflies. Native trees are important, too!

Provide shelter and nesting areas
A small pile of branches and sticks will offer shelter for butterflies and moths. Leaf-cutter and Mason bees will look for hollow twigs or sticks to lay their eggs and rotten logs encourage wood-boring beetles.

Be patient
As you design and plant for pollinators, remember that it may take a while for them to find your garden, especially if you live far from wilder foraging areas.

And most of all…
Watch and enjoy the fascinating diversity and beauty of pollinators!