What do gardens look like in your neighborhood? If you’re surrounded by sculpted lawns, consider that a red flag: pollinators may be struggling in your area.
Sadly, what we consider convenient landscaping isn’t always beneficial for the natural environment.
Pollinators play an incredibly important role in our food supply system; we can credit them with roughly 1/3 of the food we eat each day.
However, their habitat is declining by an estimated million acres a year, and that’s largely because of urban and suburban development projects.
The problem has definitely been exacerbated by humans, but the good news is that we can also be a part of the solution.
It’s still possible to make a positive impact on the plight of pollinators, and you can do it without leaving your own backyard!
Read on to learn everything you need to know about pollinators in order to plant a successful pollinator garden.
Table of Contents
What Are Pollinators And Why Are They Important?
To reproduce, plants produce seeds. Before that can occur, though, pollen must be transferred between flowers of the same species .
This is where pollinators come in handy! They act as vectors, moving the pollen between different flowers as they eat or drink nectar from them.
When pollen falls from a pollinator onto a flower’s stigma, there is the opportunity for the plant to reproduce.
Wind and water might support this process, but so do birds, insects, butterflies, bats, and other animals. We categorize all of them as pollinators.
The five most common pollinators are bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, flies, and beetles.
However, as many as 200,000 different animal species participate in the pollination of the 250,000 kinds of flowering plants on this planet.
When we disrupt their habitat, we prevent crucial plant reproduction!
Reproducing is obviously essential. Otherwise, plants become extinct — and this isn’t just bad news for the plants!
After all, we require them for so many different purposes: food, beverages, spices, fibers, and even medicine.
Since we depend on pollination, we should do what we can to protect this process.
You might be surprised to learn of the many foods and beverages that require pollinators to be produced.
If you enjoy a cup of coffee every morning, you have a pollinator to thank for that! Chocolate and tequila are two other products of pollination.
There are three great reasons to plant a pollinator garden!
Of course, pollinators also bring us all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
How would we cope without these essential goods? Let’s protect and preserve the pollinators in time so that we never have to find out…
What Is The Purpose of a Pollinator Garden?
The purpose of a pollinator garden is to attract pollinating insects with nectar and other nourishing substances.
As they move from plant to plant, they’ll support the reproduction process. This support is very necessary, as pollinating animals have suffered due to human activity.
By planting a pollinator garden, you can help to repair the damage that has been done by chemical misuse, the introduction of invasive plant species, and pollinators’ loss of habitat.
Worryingly, many pollinators come under the category of “listed species,” which means these crucial creatures could be considered endangered.
You’ve probably heard about a bee crisis, but maybe you don’t realize the extent of the problem.
Unbelievably, the USA has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies in just 10 years.
Now, the European Union is investing in research to determine the condition of pollinating species in Europe.
What can a pollinator garden do to help? By supplying food to the pollinators, you’ll bring them to your area.
They in turn will support the production of food for human beings. It’s a beautiful exchange when you think about it!
Another cool purpose of a pollinator garden is that it can be used as an educational tool for children and adults alike.
If you want to see how the ecosystem works in real life, simply plant a pollinator garden.
You’ll soon understand how even the tiniest insect has an important role in the process that puts dinner on your table.
If you want to learn about the ecosystem while you support it, cultivating a pollinator garden is a surprisingly easy way to achieve this.
It doesn’t matter how small your garden is; you can still make a positive impact.
How Do You Create a Pollinator In Your Garden?
To make your garden pollinator-friendly, here are some top tips!
- Let your garden get messy! This one is easy; all you have to do is leave twig piles and fall leaves exactly where they are. This enables pollinators to find homes and lay their eggs.
- Install a bee home. But before you buy one, make sure it’s for the right kind of bee. Your bee home should also have removal tubes so bee cocoons can be cleaned. Check it has breathable nesting tubes (about 15cm long) that close at one end so that parasites are prevented from entering. A roof with an overhang is also required to stop water from getting in. Lastly, the bee home needs to be attached or mounted to be effective; it shouldn’t hang from a wire.
- Make your own bee home. Alternatively, you can create your own bee home using an empty waterproof milk carton or a wooden house painted in a bright color with low volatile organic compounds paint. Hang it in a dry spot at eye level. Be patient, it may take a while for bees to recognize their new place!
- Make a bumblebee nest. Fill a plant pot with dried grass or fine wood chips that the bees can use as nesting material. Place it upside down on the ground in the shade and leave air holes open. A plate on top will hold the plant pot in place.
- Build a butterfly garden. You can do this by planting host plants – a place where they can lay eggs. Allow mud puddles to develop or attract them using rotting fruit or dung. Plant a range of native nectar plants that flower at different times. They’re especially likely to visit sunny spots!
What Are Some Requirements of a Pollinator Garden?
To attract pollinators, you need to know what they like! Believe it or not, color is a key consideration. Bees, one of the most prolific pollinators, like flowers that are yellow, purple, and blue.
Besides color, bees also like plants that smell sweet. Just like bees, butterflies enjoy purple and yellow flowers; however, they’re also attracted to white, pink, orange, and red.
Who wouldn’t want hummingbirds in their pollinator garden? To attract them, you’ll need pink, orange, and red flowers.
Ultimately, your best bet is to plant a range of different flowers so that something is always in bloom during the growing season.
Consider planting flowers that bloom at night too. That’s how you attract moths and bats to your garden.
By including different types, shapes, and sizes, you cater to different pollinating insects and their specific mouth shapes.
It’s important that you don’t plant them at random, though; instead, organize them in large groups of the same kind.
That makes different types of plants easier for the pollinator to find. Think about it like the specific aisles in a supermarket!
The best plants are those that are native to your area. Why? Because they are already perfectly suited to your local climate, your local soil, and – most importantly — your local pollinators.
Warning: stay away from hybrid flowers. Although they may be considered “perfect,” they’ve been bred for aesthetics, not for their pollen, nectar, or fragrance.
Those are the things that pollinators really need.
Similarly, don’t get distracted by the idea of pretty butterflies. It’s their caterpillars that you need to bring to your garden first.
They like to consume plants like milkweed, so include this in your garden.
You might want to plant them in a less visible position since they will (hopefully) be chewed up soon!
Pesticides are a no-no in a pollinator garden. Instead, use organic methods to manage pest problems.
You may find that your garden has a reduced pest presence once it’s pollinator-friendly anyway.
This is because birds and other predators will take care of the issue for you.
How Do I Turn My Yard Into a Pollinator Garden?
To encourage a bee to drop by, you’ll need to provide a tasty snack! They eat nectar and pollen. Pollen provides the fat and the protein, whereas nectar is more like a dessert: full of yummy sugar!
When it has a range of plants flowering at different moments, your pollination garden will look like an all-you-can-eat buffet to the bees.
Butterflies and bees will also be attracted by a damp salt lick. You can make this yourself relatively easily.
All you need is a dripping hose and an irrigation line or a birdbath that you can place directly on the soil.
What’s most important is that you have a damp area to stir some sea salt into the mud.
Wondering how to host a butterfly dinner party? Well, for such beautiful creatures, butterflies actually eat very inelegantly.
Rather than sweet nectar, they prefer animal droppings and rotting fruits! For caterpillars, violets, milkweed, dill, and asters should feature on the menu.
Something that’s hard for gardeners to get used to when they’re switching their focus to pollination is that aesthetics aren’t the most important thing.
That doesn’t mean your pollinator garden will be ugly; how can it be with such a diverse mix of colorful flowers?
However, you may need to incorporate unusual elements; for example, a dead tree.
That’s right! If you leave a dead tree or even a dead limb in your garden, this can serve a purpose for pollinators.
What might look useless to a human being can in fact act as an essential nesting site.
If you have scrap wood, consider drilling differently sized holes into it and mounting it outside.
This makes a great holiday home for bees! Your garden might become growing season’s hottest resort for pollinators.
Make sure you have enough nectar for your hummingbird population! Simply mix four parts water with one part table sugar.
The key with pollinator gardens is to keep it natural: that means no pesticides and no artificial sweeteners, either.
Place your nectar mixture on a hummingbird feeder alongside something red to attract attention.
They love red. Flowers like red or purple hollyhock, pink or red coral bells, bee balm, summer phlox, or sage are likely to catch their eye.
Lastly, a great idea to finish off your pollinator garden is to plant plenty of sunflowers.
Because they grow so tall, they serve as a signpost to pollinators – almost like a roadside billboard might alert us to a diner!
In addition to their advertising benefits, they also contain nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies to feast on.
Do Pollinator Gardens Work?
In a word, yes! Your purpose-driven pollinator garden can make a huge difference.
Sure, your garden might be small-scale, but if it’s rich in plant life then it will still play an important role in increasing the abundance and diversity of pollinators.
Do you want to multiply the effects of your pollinator garden? Then inspire others to follow your lead!
When sharing pretty pictures of the hummingbirds and butterflies that are drawn to your colorful flowers, share some information about pollinators too.
Many people don’t realize how easy and essential it is to support their activities.
Lawns may look neat and tidy, but there’s something infinitely more exciting about nature in all its wild glory.
You can curate a garden that’s not only beautiful but also beneficial.
Bees, butterflies, birds, and all the many pollinators work hard for us, and planting a pollinator garden helps them to do their important job.