Pollinator Gardens

Encouraging the Creation Pollinator Friendly Habitat

Through millennia, bees and pollinators have featured prominently in human culture as well as the human food supply. Referenced in religious texts and adopted by Napoleon as his national emblem, bees have been major contributors to the human experience. Now, they are under pressure and suffering declining populations as multiple threats take their toll.

Through the effects of pesticides, habitat destruction, diseases, parasites, and unknown, but deadly, circumstances, bees and pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates. Without them, we're in trouble. We can thank our pollinators for one out of every three bites of food we eat. According to Greenpeace USA, our bee populations are responsible for pollinating 70 out of the top 100 human food crops, supplying about 90% of the world’s nutrition.

In an article by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations dated February 26, 2016, Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., Senior Professor at the University of São Paulo stated "Their health is directly linked to our own well-being." Sir Robert Watson, co chair of the study with Dr. Imperatriz-Fonseca stated "Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors. Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change."

Declines in regional wild pollinators have been confirmed for North Western Europe and in North America. Although local cases of decline have been documented in other parts of the world, data are too sparse to draw broad conclusions.

The assessment found that pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown. A pioneering study conducted in farm fields showed that one neonicotinoid insecticide had a negative effect on wild bees, but the effect on managed honeybees was less clear.

"While gaps remain in our knowledge of pollinators, we have more than enough evidence to act," Prof. Imperatriz-Fonseca said.

Creating Gardens To Support Pollinators

Because pollinators and plants coevolve, bees, butterflies, and other local animals and insects are best suited to flowers and plants that are native to the area. Bees and butterflies are especially drawn to nectar and pollen-rich flowers like wildflowers.

Helping Your Garden BEE Happy!

Creating a bee garden can be as simple as planting a butterfly bush in a pot on your back patio or as complex as transforming large parts of your yard into a wildflower garden! Select single flower tops for your bee garden and skip the highly hybridized plants which produce very little pollen for bees.

Terrific choices to explore are crocus, hyacinth, wild lilac, bee balm, echinacea, snapdragons, russian sage, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, and goldenrod. Herbs are also very happy to receive bee-visits. Plant chives, thyme, oregano, or basil to help local bees create “locally” flavored honey!

Planting For Butterflies

Spring is the time to plant for butterflies, whether it's in a flower pot, on a patio, or in a garden. When planning your garden, both annuals and perennials are helpful. Annuals to include are: Lantana, Nasturtiums, Zinnias, Cosmos, Marigolds, Tithonia (also known as Mexican Sunflowers), and Dill. Perennials we can plant are Purple Coneflowers, Aster, Catnip, Daisies, Coreopsis, Monarda or Bee Balm, Yarrow, Sedum, Phlox, Liatris, and Milkweed.

If you have space for a bush or two, Lilacs and Buddleia (also known as Butterfly Bush) are two excellent choices and will attract many Butterflies. Please do not use chemicals in your Butterfly Garden!

Milkweed and Monarchs

Milkweed is the host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. If you need Milkweed, either seeds or plants, you can find additional resources through the Monarch Watch program at www.monarchwatch.org. You can see what variety of milkweed is needed in your area by checking through the regions and seed needs here. Check to see if they have Milkweed for your area at http://monarchwatch.org/milkweed/market/ as that is the variety they will send. Milkweed plugs can be sent free to any school, or non profit organization. Program information and the application can be found at http://monarchwatch.org/bring-back-the-monarchs/milkweed/free-milkweeds/.

The National Pollinator Garden Network

Beginning in 2015, NGC has been participating as an Inaugural Network Garden Partner of the National Pollinator Garden Network, a non-partisan voluntary coalition formed to help establish one million gardens to assist in restoring critical pollinator population recovery in the United States. The Network collectively represents an estimated 800,000 members in 50 national organizations that are conducting pollinator education, providing pollinator plants and resources, and planting pollinator gardens across America.

This unprecedented collaboration and our members were asked to provide food and habitat for pollinators in our home gardens, as well as our public garden projects, youth garden projects, schools, nursing homes, botanical gardens, business areas, and government offices.

Register Your Garden!

You may still register your pollinator habitat! Click here to buzz over to the Pollinator Partnership Website where you can create an account, register your pollinator site and see an interactive map of sites that have been registered. It's free and easy! Explore other pollinator friendly S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment) landscapes all over the globe! Be a part of the movement now!

For more information, contact:
Charlotte Croft,
Chairman: Pollinator Gardens


Xerces Society Articles