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How to Attract Pollinators

Butterfly pollinating flower, how to attract pollinators Butterfly pollinating flower, how to attract pollinators

How to Attract Pollinators

In this world, where we are facing a potential dearth of bees and other insects necessary for plant pollination, it is more important than ever to grow our gardens with their needs in mind. Our gardens can't exist without successful pollination every year from these bugs, bees, butterflies, bats and birds.

Thankfully, there are a number of easy ways to attract these wonderful creatures into our gardens so we can all benefit from their hard work. Once you have decided which plants you are going to grow to attract pollinators to your garden, find out the optimal planting dates to start planting.

The Pollinators

A pollinator is a bug, insect or bird that, through its natural feeding pattern, transfers pollen between plants, flowers and trees.

The most common pollinators are bees, butterflies, bats and insects. They are not all attracted to the same things, so you need to plan and plant accordingly a variety of plants and flowers to ensure a wide, diverse population of pollinators.

Hummingbirds like red, orange, white, and scarlet, tube shaped flowers without distinct odors. Bees prefer bright yellow, blue and white flowers with contrasting ultraviolet patterns. They like flowers with mild, pleasant odors. Butterflies want bright purple and red flowers with a fresh, light odor. Bats are attracted to flowers that give off strong, musty scents and are white, green or purple in color. Beetles prefer white and green flowers with foul or fruity or nonexistent odor.

Provide Water

Bees, birds and butterflies will all want water. Installing a bird bath or catch basin for rain water is a simple way to provide this. Butterflies like to congregate together to drink, so creating a safe space for them to do this will encourage their presence in your garden.

Provide Food

Birds, bees and insects seek out nectar. Nectar is produced by plants to attract these pollinators. When a bee lands on a flower seeking its nectar, it naturally gets dusted in pollen. Then, when it flies to the next flower, it carries that pollen with it, as well as collecting more pollen from the next flower, and so on. This method of transferring pollen is absolutely necessary to the survival of many flowers and trees.

The nectar produced by flowers and vegetables is unique to its type and therefore attracts different kinds of pollinators. To encourage a wide range of pollinators, to ensure all your plants get pollinated, it is best to grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.

Every area on earth has its own unique set of pollinators so be sure to research the top ones in your area and make a plan to provide a haven for them. It is believed native plants are more attractive to bees than exotic ones, so plan a bunch of natives if possible. Planting in groups or large patches will also help attract pollinators as they are more likely to see the large bunches and be drawn to them.

Butterflies are attracted to: Alyssum, Aster, Bee balm, Butterfly bush, Calendula, Cosmos, Daylily, Delphinium, Dianthus, Fennel, Globe thistle, Goldenrod, Hollyhock, Lavender, Liatris, Marigold, Musk mallow, Nasturtium, Oregano, Phlox, Purple coneflower, Queen Anne's lace, Sage, Scabiosa, Shasta daisy, Stonecrop, Verbena, Yarrow, and Zinnia.

Hummingbirds are attracted to: Ajuga, Bee balm, Begonia, Bleeding heart, Butterfly weed, Canna, Cardinal flower, Century plant, Columbine, Dahlia, Dame's rocket, Delphinium, Fire pink, Four o' clocks, Foxglove, Fuchsia, Gilia, Geranium, Gladiolus, Glossy abelia, Hollyhocks, Impatiens, Iris, Lantana, Liatris, Lily, Lupine, Nasturtium, Petunia, Phlox, Sage, Salvia, Scabiosa, Scarlet sage, Sweet William, Verbena, Yucca, and Zinnia.

Bees are attracted to: Allium, Aster, Basil, Bee balm, Bee plant, Bergamot, Blanket flower, Borage, Cosmos, Flax, Four o'clock, Gaillardia, Geranium, Giant hyssop, Globe thistle, Goldenrod, Helianthus, Hyssop, Joe-pye weed, Lavender, Lupine, Marjoram, Mint, Poppy, Rosemary, Sage, Skullcap, Sunflower, Thyme, Verbena, Wallflower, Wild rose, and Zinnia.

(The ones marked in bold are shared among all three groups)

Provide Shelter

Pollinators need natural habitats to raise their young, escape the elements and to hide from predators.

The best way to increase the population of butterflies is to provide a sheltering place with a food source for their eggs and when they are in caterpillar stage. Twigs, hollow branches, and piles of dead wood make nice places for bees to hide out. Bushes and hedgerows provide nice spaces for all of these pollinators to create their homes.

Provide Variety and Continuance

Because of the variance between what different species prefer, it is best to plant a wide variety of flowers and vegetables to enhance your garden's attractiveness. There are four thousand species of bees in North America, all with different size bodies and tongues, and therefore, preferences as well.

Providing nectar and pollen throughout the growing season is also important to keep the bugs and bees happy and sticking around. To do this, choose plants and flowers that bloom at different times.

Go Pesticide Free

Some pesticides are toxic to bees and other pollinating insects. If at all possible, limit or reduce entirely, your use of these substances.

The issue with pesticides is that they are not selective in who or what they kill. They will get rid of both the pests and the pollinators in one fell swoop, without regard for who is doing the garden good. Pesticides can also negatively impact breeding and nesting areas which not only hurts the pollinators in the short term, but affects their populations for years.

If you must use them, do not spray on open blossoms or when you see bees or other pollinators around. Spraying at night is a better choice as most pollinators will not be foraging at that time. Also, it is best to start with the least toxic one and follow the instructions exactly.

Planting for pollinators is a simple way to enhance the beauty and success of your garden. The variety or flowers, vegetables, herbs, with all their different colors and scents, make a superb, alluring garden, for humans and pollinators alike.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

Ohio State University Extension, Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden