Promoting Pollination

Gardening, Home & Family, Outdoors
on April 9, 2006

Look closely in your garden and you’ll notice butterflies, bees, flies and moths zipping from plant to plant in search of food in the form of nectar and pollen. Along the way these insects are playing a critical role as pollinators, helping your plants set fruit and reproduce. In fact, 91 percent of the estimated 240,000 flowering plant species worldwide require the help of pollinators to distribute their pollen.

Despite the important service they provide, some pollinators are threatened by habitat loss, pesticide use and disease. Here are four easy ways to encourage pollinators to visit your garden:

Provide an abundant source of food—Include lots of nectar- and pollen-rich plants in your garden, such as old-fashioned flowers and wildflowers. A succession of blooming annuals, perennials and shrubs will ensure nectar and pollen are available throughout the growing season. Remember to also include plants that butterfly larvae feed on, such as dill, fennel and milkweed.

Ease off the chemicals—Many pesticides—even organic ones—are toxic to bees and other beneficial organisms. In the short term, these pesticides may provide a quick knock-down to attacking insects. In the long run, you expose yourself, pets, wildlife and pollinators to toxic chemicals and risk disrupting the natural ecosystem. If you do apply a pesticide, never spray when blossoms are open or when bees or other pollinators are present.

Provide shelter—Butterflies, bees and other pollinators need shelter to hide from predators, get out of the elements and rear their young. Let a small part of your lawn grow wild for ground-nesting bees. Allow a pile of grass cuttings or a log to decompose in a sunny place. Or, leave a dead tree standing to create nooks for butterflies and solitary bees.

Provide water—A water garden, birdbath or catch basin for rain will guarantee that pollinators can always find the water they need to survive. Butterflies also are attracted to muddy puddles for salts and nutrients as well as water.

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