Mass of purple coneflower.  How to Create a Pollinator Haven.

How to Create a Pollinator Haven

Bees and other pollinators are a significant part of our world today. Without pollinators, our food sources, as well as the food sources for many other animal species, would look very different. 

With the decline in the pollinator population, we all must step up to help make a change. And, whether you have a single container, landscape, flower garden, or acres of land – we can all make a difference. Here are some simple ways to help create havens for pollinators. 

What is pollination?

Pollination occurs when an animal moves pollen from the anthers (male structures that produce pollen) to the stigma (the female structure where the pollen germinates) on the same species of plant.

Bumblebee on pink Autumn Joy Sedum flower.

Why is pollination important?

The pollinating animal is helping the plant to produce the seeds and fruit necessary for the survival of the plant. The animal, in return, receives its sustenance in the form of pollen, nectar, or fruit.  While some plants are wind-pollinated, many plants require the assistance of pollinators.

Honeycomb against white background.

Humans benefit as well from the food produced by both the plant and some of the pollinators. Pollinators are necessary for 3/4 of our major food crops.

Do you enjoy splurging on a piece of chocolate? You can thank a tiny fly that is aptly named the Chocolate Midge.

Chocolate Midge against white fabric background.
Chocolate Midge. Photo Courtesy Brian V. Brown/Encyclopedia of Life via National Park Service

What are pollinators?

There are over 200,000 animals that act as pollinators, with the honey bee leading the way as the poster child.  

Beetles, wasps, ants, and butterflies are just some of the insects. Hummingbirds, bats, and other small mammals make up approximately 1,000 of those pollinators. And, while the honey bee is native to Europe, the U.S. has over 3600 species of native bees that assist in pollination.

Around 75% of all plant species and 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals to pollinate them. That’s a pretty big job that requires a lot of pollinators.

Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate lollipops with sprinkles.

That piece of chocolate? You enjoy it because of a fly — the ONLY animal or insect that pollinates the Cacao plant.  

How humbling to think that an extravagant food is available to us only because of a small creature that we often consider pesky.

What can I do to help pollinators?

Like humans, pollinators require the 3 most basic needs for survival: Food, Water, and Shelter. Here are some ways you can help pollinators.

  • Create more green spaces.
  • Reduce or eliminate pesticide use.
  • Replace lawn with flower beds.
  • Plant herbs.
  • Leave clover and dandelions in your yard – These are excellent food sources, and dandelions are often one of the first food sources available.
  • Create a habitat for pollinators to live in.
  • Provide water.
  • Learn to accept plant damage – Several pollinators also use specific plant leaves as a food source. Don’t stress over every bit of leaf damage in your garden!
Yellow, black, and white Monarch Caterpillar on stem of Butterfly Weed.

What can I plant for pollinators?

When you begin your pollinator garden, be sure to select plants that flower from early spring to fall. Choose an array of plants, from herbs, perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Pollinators tend to be more attracted to groups of plants, so avoid single plants unless your garden is small. Plant native plants when available or choose cultivars of native plants.

You should also avoid heavily modified blooms like the double-flowering blooms of Coneflower. They may be beautiful, but they are bred with you in mind, not pollinators.

Large, pink, double flowering coneflower.
‘Pink Double Delight’ Echinacea. Photo Courtesy Plants Nouveau

Here is a list of commonly found perennials that are great for pollinator gardens!

Early BloomingMid/Late BloomingLate Blooming
Astilbe, Astilbe spp.Beardtongues, PenstemonAster, Symphyotrychum
Catmint, Nepeta spp.Bee Balm, Monarda spp.Goldenrod, Solidago
Cranesbill, GeraniumBellflower, Campanula spp.Sedum, Sedum spp.
False Indigo, Baptisia australisBetony, Stachys monieri
Pinks, Dianthus spp.Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia spp.
Salvia, Salvia nemorosaBlanket Flower, Gaillardia
Blazing Star, Liatris spicata
Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa
Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Daylily, Hemerocallis
Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochiu purpureum
Lavender, Lavandula
Ornamental Onion, Allium spp.
Phlox, Phlox paniculata
Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Sources

Pollinator Partnership

PennState Center for Pollinator Research.  What are pollinators and why do we need them?

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