The seed catalogs are here. Despite the cold, the buds are swelling on trees and shrubs; birds sing louder in the mornings. Time for the home gardener to think about pollinators critters necessary for the reproduction of flowering plants. Result – those ripe fat tomatoes you plan to enjoy in August. Abundant and healthy populations of pollinators can improve fruit set, quality, and size.
We’re not just talking honeybees, which were brought to this country 400 years ago. Before honeybees, flowers still got pollinated. In the Eastern Broadleaf forests Native American people did not live on deer meat alone. All kinds of native pollinators did the work of pollination. There are nearly 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. Did you know that it is the length of a bees tongue that determines from which flowers they can gain nectar? While some native bees are social and form colonies, none are large-community hive-nesters like honeybees. Whether social or solitary, all native bees nest either in the ground, in small cavities, or in dead trees. Worried to have a bees buzzing about your yard or garden? A foraging bee is not aggressive if left alone, but a bee will defend its nest.
Other pollinators here in NE Ohio include butterflies, moths, beetles, flies (yes, flies), and hummingbirds. Butterflies are daytime pollinators, often attracted to flowers that are as bright colored and eye-catching as they are; some butterflies require specific host plants in their larval stage (expect some damage to plants). Moths are attracted to pale flowers with strong sweet scent that open late afternoon or at night. Beetles, although they are not efficient, are also pollinators, attracted to large strongly scented flowers with their sexual organs exposed (they also sometimes damage plants). Flies, like beetles, are generalist pollinators, and pollinate mostly small flowers. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the pollinating animal, the shorter the distance they fly to forage. You can increase the number of pollinators in your immediate area by making some critical conscious decisions to make your yard a better pollinator habitat.
- FOOD: Grow plants with flowers that are high in nectar (sugar) and pollen (proteins). Plant in groups to increase pollinator efficiency. Provide a long bloom season and diversity of color, fragrance, shape. (Dandelions are an excellent early spring nectar source).
- SHELTER: Plant in canopy layers. Leave some dead snags, dead plants, and leaf litter, Group plantings for safe passage from predators. Accept some mess.
- WATER: Provide a shallow sloped sided plate or bowl so pollinators can approach water without drowning; or natural water source.
- PESTICIDES: Minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides. Learn Integrated Pest Management practices.
Brought to you by Green Paradigm Partners for Beauty and Biodiversity