Published on May 15th, 2015 | by Lynn Fang
Pollinator-Friendly Plants for a Bee-Friendly Garden
Pollinators move pollen from male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower for fertilization and reproduction (fruiting). There are many different types of pollinators – the most commonly known is the bee. Not only are honey bees excellent pollinators, but so are many other types of bees, including non-honey producing bees, bumblebees, and wasps.
Moths and butterflies, beetles, hoverflies, and even ants can also serve as pollinators. Vertebrates such as bats and birds pollinate certain plants. Hummingbirds, honeyeaters, and sunbirds have long beaks that can pollinate deep-throated flowers.
The extensive use of pesticides pose a threat to natural pollinators, causing colony collapse disorder in bee populations. Growing pollinator-friendly plants in your garden, especially native species without the use of pesticides, helps support pollinator populations and can increase the pollination and harvest of fruits and seeds in your garden.
Choosing to grow native species attracts more native pollinators and harnesses the strengthened partnership between pollinator and flower that has built up through natural selection and evolution.
Consider planting some of these pollinator-friendly plants in your garden to attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, beetles, and bats.
Butterflies are beautiful and mysterious creatures whose habitats have been lost to extensive building development and road construction. Alfalfa, clovers, herbs, carrots, nettle, and trees such as elm, willow, green ash, aspen, cottonwood, and poplar provide delicious eats for growing caterpillars.
Nectar-producing flowers attract adult butterflies, and are most important in mid to late summer, when butterflies are most active. Butterfly bush and butterfly weed are some of the most popular plants used to attract butterflies. Bloodflower, purple coneflower, milkweed, amaranth, lavendar, Brazilian verbena, New England aster, sage, chives, and marigold are all excellent sources of nectar for adult butterflies.
Bees have a long proboscis (tongue) that allows them to take up nectar from flowers. Sweat bees are the most common type of bee in the Northern Hemisphere, and are often mistaken for wasps or flies. The most well-known bee is the European honey bee, which, along with a few other types of bees, produces honey. Most bees are fuzzy and carry an electrostatic charge, which enhances the ability for pollen to stick to their bodies.
Most flowering plants are good sources of nectar for bees. Lupines, legumes like peas, milkweed, hyssop, goldenrod, coneflower, and butterfly weed are all great choices for a pollinator-friendly garden.
Like bees, hummingbirds also have a long tongue that allows them to drink nectar from deep-throated flowers. Great native plants that provide nectar for hummingbirds include honeysuckle, beebalm, wild bergamot, cardinal flower, and trumpet creeper. They will also love bottlebrush, aloe vera, Chinese bell flower, desert willow, fuchsia, tobacco, and sage.
Because beetles pollinate as they move from flower to flower and are generally less active on flowers than bees or butterflies, they are thought to be less effective. Still, an estimated 52 native plants in the U.S. and Canada are pollinated by beetles. Beetles most often pollinate flowers like daisies, roses, celery, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, lilies, fuchsias, and legumes like peas.
Bats are most prominent in pollination of tropical fruits such as banana, mango, guava, cocoa, and agave (the source of tequila). Bats are attracted flowers that don’t have strong scents or bright colors, just the opposite of bees. In addition to being excellent pollinators, bats also offer pest control by consuming insects, keeping pest populations at bay.
Planting flowers that are late-blooming or night-scented will attract the night pollinators, such as moths and bats. Bats will also eat moths. Native plants like evening primrose, phlox, Silene catchfly, goldenrod, and fleabane are good choices to add to your pollinator-friendly garden. Building a bat box also encourages bats to roost and maintain a continued presence in your garden.