Planting for Pollinators
Nowadays, you can't miss the news about the dramatic decline in pollinator species, in particular bees, bats and butterflies. Pesticides, toxic runoff, habitat destruction, fungal and viral infections are only some of the possible reasons these beneficial insects are showing severe signs of becoming endangered.
As pollinator populations fall, in turn we are more and more at risk of losing entire species of plants. Research shows that 84% of the crops grown for human consumption – around 400 different types of plants – need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality.
As only about ten percent of plants are self-pollinating, pollinators are essential to bio-diverse ecosystems, which creates vibrant habitats that support a wide-range of species, so helping them ultimately helps us.
No pollinators = no fruit, no veggies, no flowers.
According to the Canadian Bee Journal (or Albert Einstein - no one knows for sure), "If the Bee Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, Man Would Only Have Four Years Left To Live". So this is a serious concern... now, what can us average joes and janes do to help, you ask??
By planting your whole garden, or even just a small but sunny corner, with pollinator-attracting flowers, you can feel confident knowing you are helping these important pollen-collectors out!
Where you live, your soil, water and light conditions, and your hardiness zone (see map here) will determine what type of pollinating flowers grow best in your backyard.
Generally, bees and butterflies are attracted to big, bold blooms with lots of colour, hummingbirds are attracted to bright-coloured tubular flowers that hold lots of nectar, and those oft-misunderstood nighttime pollinators, the wee bat, are attracted to fragrant white or pale-coloured, highly-scented night-blooming plants.
And don't forget to plant for butterfly larvae with dill, fennel and milkweed - butterflies love big bloom flowers that provide an extra perch for their delicate legs. Add some native asters and a sunflower or two, and you have the makings of a bee and butterfly mecca.
Tips for creating a sustainable pollinator garden:
Plant pollinator gardens anywhere you can find room,
Try to use native flowers from your ecoregion to promote natural biodiversity and avoid non-native plants, see here for Pacific Northwest Wildflower blend,
Be sure that you have flowers blooming throughout the growing season to keep well-fed,
To encourage insects, especially pollinators, grow beneficial plants that that provide both nectar and pollen,
Don't be tempted to overly-manicure your garden: some non-migrating butterflies overwinter as pupae attached to plants - do your yard clean up in the spring rather than in the fall,
To avoid disrupting the natural balance of your local ecosystem, practice regular maintenance so you never need to rely on pesticides. If such need arises, seek environment-friendly remedies or consult professionals instead.
For a list of pollinating flowers, follow this link.