One out of every three bites of food we eat relies on pollinators, mostly insects, to reproduce. Unfortunately, bees (colony and solitary), butterflies, moths, bats, birds, and beetles are facing challenges due to habitat loss, disease, parasites, and pesticides.
Try these tips to help out pollinators in your backyard:
Diversify. Take out the yew hedge that flanks the front yard and consider replacing it with a variety of shrubs, varying by species, height and blooming time. Grouping at least eight different species together attracts a significantly greater number and type of species. Remember, pollinators like flowers.
Go native. Native flowers are adapted to local soil, climate and pest conditions, making them hardier than cultivated varieties. Their smaller upright blooms often offer more nectar than hybrid varieties – allowing pollinators to expend less energy as they feed. Natives help you cut down on fertilizer and supplemental watering.
Aim for a meadow. Choose a sunny location to plant nectar-producing plants that bloom from early spring (wild lupine, spiderwort), to mid-summer (bee balm or monarda, purple prairie clover, purple coneflower) through late fall (liatris or blazing star, New England aster, goldenrod). Add a few native warm season grass species like big bluestem for overwintering habitat and weed resistance. Provide host plants required for insect larvae, for example, native milkweeds for monarch butterflies, pussytoes for painted lady butterflies.
Be untidy. Much as it goes against many gardeners’ instincts, nature likes untidy landscapes. Bare areas with no mulch provide nesting areas for native solitary bees – nests may look like small holes in the dirt. Small brush piles provide nest materials for birds and bees, and, if undisturbed, overwintering shelters for many insects. Cut down on chemicals. Keep pesticides away from pollinator habitat, as they are designed to kill insects.