Pollinator Gardens: Attracting Butterflies, Bees, and Other Pollinators to Your Landscape
Pollinators are a unique animal species that provide pollen to plants. This group includes bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and bats. The relationship that pollinators have with plants is very evolved and important, as they both rely on each other for survival. Not only that, but these pollinators are crucial to food production for humans and many other animals. More than 70% of flowering plants rely on pollinators for fruit and seed production. Pollination occurs when a pollinator enters a flower and pollen gets stuck to its body. Once the pollinator moves onto another flower of the same species, pollen is transferred from its body to the plant, resulting in cross-pollination. Because pollination is essential for production of fruits and seeds, pollinators have a very important job to complete.
Creating a Habitat for Pollinators
Like all other animals, food, water, and shelter are necessary to support the pollinator populations. Pollinators need a habitat that can provide them these necessities and give them a place to nest. For a successful pollinator habitat, whether it is manmade, or a natural meadow, several flowering plants all in bloom is required. For an intentionally planted pollinator garden, the habitat must be planted with a mixture of plant species with bloom times ranging from early spring to late fall to ensure flowers will be available throughout the season. Planted habitats can be a refuge for pollinators that may not have the floral resources they need to survive.
Designing a Pollinator Garden
Designing a pollinator garden doesn’t mean giving up the aesthetic and beauty of your garden to provide a habitat, as there are many plant species and varieties that are lush and beautiful that still can provide food, water, and shelter. In order to make a garden attractive to pollinators, it’s important to determine what type of pollinator you are designing the garden for. This will determine which type, size, and structure of flowers that should be planted. For example, some larger bees prefer bigger flowers, while smaller bees will be able to work on smaller flowers. Some pollinators, like a hummingbird for example, are more inclined to work a bell-shaped flower over a flat disc shaped one. Bees tend to favor flowers with a similar structure, so it would work well to plant flowers in groups of similar structure together. The most important thing to remember, is having several flowering plants in bloom throughout the year.
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Because each area varies in climate, soil conditions, and water availability, there are various lists of plants that will thrive in a pollinator garden. Here are some resources for suggested plant lists: