Plan Now To Attract Pollinators To Your Landscape This Season
When making plans this winter for your 2024 landscape updates, consider the plight of pollinators. These hard workers include many insects, the best known of which are bees and butterflies. Birds, especially hummingbirds, are also excellent pollinators.
If you want to attract these creatures, you should know a little about their biology, especially why and how they do what they do, as well as what they need to survive and thrive. Pollinators go about this important work quite unwittingly. They don’t fly around in search of pollen to spread. They really want the sweet nectar in the flowers. While imbibing, they come in contact with the anther, which is the male part of the plant. Grains of pollen from the anther sticks to their feet, legs and, sometimes, to their whole body.
When they’ve consumed their fill of nectar, they fly off. Soon, they’re hungry again and seek out another nectar- filled plant. When they land on the new plant, the nectar they’re carrying sticks to the female part of the plant, called the stamen. This results in a fertilized flower that produces seeds.
Some pollinators have very specific needs and are very fussy, other not so much. Much has been written about the decreasing monarch butterfly population. One reason often cited is their appetite for milkweed plants. This is the only plant this finicky pollinator’s caterpillars will feed on. When it’s egg-laying time, the females will seek out milkweeds on which to lay their eggs. Planting milkweed somewhere on your property is essential to attracting monarch butterflies. Milkweed isn’t especially attractive so it’s not most people’s first choice for planting beds. However, it can be planted in a back corner of your yard and still provide monarch caterpillars with the food they need.
Honeybees are by far the most prolific pollinators. If you have the plants they will come, often from afar. Don’t worry about making special living arrangements for them unless you want to start a hive and become a beekeeper. Bees will fly great distances from established hives to your flower beds.
Pollinators are attracted to bright, fragrant, long-flowering plants. They prefer those with long throats. Hummingbirds have long beaks and most pollinating insect, including butterflies have long, sucking mouthparts (probiscis) to enable them to reach the nectar they want.
It’s hard to predict in advance what pollinators will visit you. The best way to start is to create a welcoming habitat and see who comes. As with any wildlife, pollinators need a source of food, water and shelter. Flowers are their food source and a birdbath and puddler are water sources. A puddler looks like a miniature birdbath. It’s small and shallow so a butterfly can bathe and drink without drowning.
Don’t worry about housing for hummingbirds. They don’t use birdhouses. However, some species of butterflies will use butterfly houses. These apartment-like structures have slits instead of holes for entryways.
Coordinating the needs of several different kinds of pollinators can be a daunting task. Our landscape designers would be happy to help you design your pollinator garden and habitat and our landscape technicians can install it if you want.