Attracting pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden can be as easy as planting flowers full of nectar, but there are a few key things you can do to keep them around and coming back!
1. Provide shelter
Butterflies, bees and other pollinators need shelter to hide from predators, get out of the elements and rear their young. Let a hedgerow or part of your lawn grow wild for ground-nesting bees. Let a pile of grass cuttings or a log decompose in a sunny place on the ground. Or, allow a dead tree to stand to create nooks for butterflies and solitary bees.
2. Provide water
Water is vital for all life, so it is necessary to keep water around for your pollinators. On hot days pollinators can tire out quickly and without access to a water source pollinators can overheat and die. Butterflies are attracted to muddy puddles which they will flock to for salts and nutrients, as well as water. Hummingbirds particularly like a gentle mist from a fountain or waterfall. The basic requirements for a bee water source is that the bees have a good footing so that they don’t fall in and drown, and that the water stays fresh. A small artificial pond is a beautiful and self sustaining solution or simply provide a bird bath!
3. Don’t Spray Pesticides
Pesticides are now labeled for their direct bee toxicity which kills 50% of bees. Pesticides are also being evaluated for their sub-lethal effects on bees side effects including: impaired learning, impaired foraging and homing ability, and reduced immune response are all possible effects of pesticide exposure. Lifespan is also affected by pesticide exposure; in some cases treated bees live only a few days, rather than their normal 6-week lifespan during the foraging season. Pesticides are not only a huge problem for bees, but other pollinators as well. If you want to keep the pollinators coming back happy and healthy eliminate them from your garden!
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4. Plant nectar and pollen-rich flowers
As with butterflies, hummingbirds especially appreciate large clusters of their favorite plants, so they can flit from one to another. Try to fill your border with a mixture of plant heights, since some species of hummingbirds prefer to graze lower than others. Hummingbirds love tubular flowers because of their long proboscis and also have a preference for red flowers, although they will visit flowers of all colors. There are several species of hummingbirds and they each have their plant preferences, but all hummingbirds need nectar rich plants such as hollyhocks, butterfly weed, and bee balm. Butterflies are partial to flowers with flat umbels, where they can stop and warm their wings as well as grab a snack on the fly. Bright colors will catch their eye in flight, so consider planting your butterfly plants such as yarrow, blanket flower, and blackeyed suzan’s in swaths large enough for them to spot. Many of the plants that are good for butterflies will also bring the bees swarming! For a more permanent garden look to plant many perennials.
5. Plant an Herb Garden
Dill, parsley, lavender, and fennel all have those wonderful flat, umbel landing pads butterflies love, as well as plenty of nectar. You can include them in a designated herb garden or incorporate these herbs into any border. Although the caterpillars of many popular butterflies will also feed on your herb plants it will not be catastrophic for your herbs as the caterpillars will quickly turn into butterflies and your herbs will regrow!
As food sources for pollinators are depleting they are counting on us to help keep them alive so they can continue to do their job which serves us by providing our food! You can make your garden a long term haven for these essential pollinators by making small changes to your garden and consciously making an effort to provide food, water and shelter for them.
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