If you like food, you can thank honeybees, bumblebees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beetles for doing much of the heavy lifting for you. These insects and birds pollinate our food crops from big to small, leading to increased yields and harvests. However, some of our pollinator species are on the decline because of farming and gardening practices — and fewer pollinators mean less food. While I can’t speak for you, my body has become very accustomed to food over the years, and it probably wouldn’t take too kindly to not being fed.
Luckily, there are things we can all do to attract these valuable creatures into our gardens, and most of them are easy and inexpensive.
1. Go native. Plants that are native to your area grow and bloom better, attracting a wide variety of pollinating insects and birds. Check with your local county extension office or a trusted garden center for recommendations of plants that are native to your part of the world.
2. Be organic. Chemicals in our lawns and gardens might get rid of the pesky bugs, but they will also kill off the beneficial ones. Using organic practices in your garden is much more pollinator-friendly — and guess what? Many of the good bugs will kill off the bad guys for you; no chemicals necessary.
3. Plant Flowers. Everyone knows pollinators like flowers, but which ones do they love? Below are our recommendations on the best flowers to attract pollinators.
- Milkweed is the one plant that the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly needs to survive, and there are over 70 native varieties of it. To learn about our Top 5 recommendations, read our article here.
- Borage provides sweet nectar that pollinators, especially bees, love. This flower is beautiful to look at and great at attracting pollinators.
- Coneflowers, also known as echinacea, attracts butterflies with its sweet nectar. It’s quite a tall flower and will grow up to 2 feet tall, making it a standout plant in your garden.
- Bee Balm, also known as monarda didymo, will have the hummingbirds racing to your garden. This perennial plant attracts pollinators because of its namesake; it’s delicious ‘bee balm’ is irresistible.
4. Vary bloom time & flower type. While a massive bloom display in the spring is stunning, remember that summer and fall each have their own pollinators that need flowers and host plants. Carefully plan your garden to ensure pollinators visit as often as possible, as these are the kinds of guests that you won’t want to usher out the door after 3 days. When considering the types of flowers you’re using, plant with their color and shape in mind.
- Did you know that bees see color five times faster than we can? Did you also know that different pollinators prefer different colored flowers? Bees gravitate towards blue, lavender, purple, white, and yellow, while butterflies prefer white, pink, purple, red, yellow and orange. Want hummingbirds? Go for red, yellow, orange, pink and purple.
- There is a wide range of flower shapes, and each pollinator prefers something different. Hummingbirds and bees love tubular flowers because it’s easy for them to collect nectar while butterflies prefer more flat flowers such as daisies and sunflowers.
5. Border food gardens. Besides being pretty, native flowers bordering your food gardens bring the pollinators right where you want them to be — to your fruits and veggies. Make it easy on these hard workers so they don’t have to drive so far for a meal.
6. Provide rooms. Hey, everyone needs their privacy, right? There are some species of bees that like to set up camp in small holes in tree stumps or other pieces of wood. To help them out, buy or create a bug hotel, or drill holes in the dead wood of a tree that is still standing.
Test Your Knowledge!
Which of these are NOT pollinators? Bees, Birds, Bats, Beetles, Butterflies
F. All of the above are pollinators