Attracting Pollinators to Your Landscape
Last updated 6/3/2015 at 10:49am
WSU Grant-Adams Extension Master Gardener, Mona Kaiser
The process of education has perked even the ears of the home gardener wanting an increase of knowledge about pollinators, or the lack of pollinators in our gardens, orchards, and farms. Resources are readily available with information about choosing and growing native and non-invasive gardens to benefit the life of bees and other pollinators. As home gardeners with a small piece of property, it seems as though we can do little to help improve conditions such as the lack of bees to pollinate our vegetable and flower gardens. We can plant for pollinators and work our soil to support their habitat.
Pollination is the process by which plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. In flowering plants, pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma, often by the wind or by insects. Animal and insect pollinators promote plant reproduction as they are looking for food for themselves or their young. Some of the animal and insect pollinators to watch for are birds, bats, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and wasps. Although we usually think of insects as pollinators, other groups of animals can be very important pollinators of certain plants.
In some cases pollinator decline is due to habitat loss that results in loss of food and/or shelter. Pollinators can be impacted directly from insecticides and indirectly form herbicides that kill plants used as food sources. Invasive plant species are a huge problem in that they replace native species that may be food sources for pollinator larvae.
There are many ways the home gardener can strive to improve the environment for increased pollinator population. Provide pollinators with what they need such as food and shelter and limit activities that may harm them, like not disturbing the soil for ground nesters, or inappropriate use of pesticides. It's easy to create an overwintering site by building a pile of logs or rocks leaving gaps of at least 3 to 4 inches to give shelter from wind and rain. Bee nesting blocks are a relatively simple project. Simply drill a series of holes into blocks of untreated wood. Remember to research the habitat needs for the different species of pollinators, keep in mind the different habitat needs according to the life stage of the pollinator.
A typical home landscape serves as an attractive setting for a house; a place to enjoy with family and friends. A typical school or community garden shares many of these attributes.
Pollinator gardens will provide food for a variety of pollinators during the whole growing season so provide a variety of colors and shapes. Choose plants that flower at different times of year, plant in clumps rather than as a single plant.
If you maintain a fruit and vegetable garden, you probably appreciate how essential pollinators are, and your vegetable garden supports them in large numbers. The fruits and vegetable you grow, from tomatoes to pumpkins and berries to apples, provide abundant flowers and are part of your pollinator habitat. Pollinators are also attracted to small flowers on herbs like dill, chives, and lavender.
If you're a homeowner looking for more information on backyard pollinator conservation, a parent, or an educator you'll enjoy additional helpful information about pollinators. Check out the book, Xerces Society Guide, "Attracting Native Pollinators". Recommended websites are xerces.org; pollinator.org; nrcs.usda.gov; and agr.wa.gov/plantsinsects/apiary.
Cooperating agencies: Washington State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Washington counties. Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.