Pollinators in our Gardens
Every third mouthful of food we eat begins with a pollinator. We are taught bees pollinate our crops, but on a world-wide basis it is the family of beetles (350,000 named ones) that pollinate 88% of all flowering plants. Bees along with ants and wasps pollinate the remaining 18%.
Gardeners quickly recognize the value of pollinators and their
crucial service to the ecosystem and life itself. However loss of
habitat, pesticides, the introduction of exotic species and, of
course, our own ignorance are all threatening our pollinators.
There are easy ways gardeners can help to alleviate some of
these stresses on our pollinators:
- choose plants that provide food and shelter for them and
group those plants in clumps
- plant flowers that bloom sequentially throughout spring, summer and fall
- provide nesting sites, such as bare soil and dead plant stocks for over winter shelter;
- native plants provide real nectar and nutrition for our pollinators
- planting trees and shrubs, in addition to annuals and perennials, will provide further protection and shelter
- reducing the use of commercial chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) will encourage a natural balance of insects
- provide a source of water, such as bird baths and damp areas, such as bogs
- plant a variety of bloom colours as different pollinators are attracted by various colours
Butterflies are the queens of the pollinators. They are attracted to brightly coloured flowers that are large and showy. They also need a bigger landing platform. Plantings of zinnia, yarrow, goldenrod, spirea, butterfly weed, honeysuckle and daisy will guarantee you will be inviting lots of butterflies to your garden.
International scientists are considering adding the Monarch butterfly to the endangered species list. Monarch butterflies require milkweed plants to lay their eggs and
for food for their caterpillars. With farmers in the USA and Canada
eliminating milkweed plants by increasingly using chemicals to
spray their soils and planting massive fields in cash crops, the
monarch population has decreased drastically.
Gardeners can help Monarchs by planting tame milkweed plants in
their gardens as well as the flowers listed above. Several of our
tour gardens have ‘Monarch Way Stations’ that have been
specifically designed to provide food and shelter for monarch butterflies.
Even small changes to our gardens can reap huge rewards in welcoming and nourishing our pollinators. Afterall, we need them to pollinate our flowers so that we have food to eat.