Visit our Learning Gardens frequently to see what’s blooming and interesting.
A pollinator is simply an animal that transfers pollen to fertilize plants. Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and even bats are a few examples of pollinators. About 85% of seed-producing plants rely on pollinators. In the United States, 150 crop plants rely on pollinators. Flowering fruit and vegetable plants would not produce food without pollinators. Think of it this way. You can thank a pollinator for every third bite of food you eat.
So why are we concerned about pollinators? The Department of Natural Resources states that pollinators are in decline in Illinois and worldwide due to factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use and competition from nonnative species. These are issues we can combat by educating and encouraging people to plant flowers and flowering trees that provide pollen and nectar and grasses to provide shelter and nesting sites.
Three simple ways to provide a natural habitat for pollinators, no matter the space or location are:
1. Pick a variety of flowers. Create a new bed, add to existing landscape or plant in containers for a buffet of overlapping blooms from spring through fall.
2. Good plant choices include perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs. Native plants are the most effective and feed a diverse population of pollinators, but with a wide variety of flowering plants, there is no need to limit your selection to only native plants.
3. Do not use insecticides near your pollinating plants.
Want to Attract Butterflies?
Choose blooms in red, yellow, orange, pink or purple that are flat-topped or clustered and plant in the sun to feed adult butterflies. Lantana, zinnia and marigolds are a few annual butterfly magnets. Pick perennials like forget-me-nots, black-eyed Susans and sedums for spring through fall blooms. Butterfly larvae enjoy different greens. For instance, the black swallowtail larvae like carrots, parsley and dill while the monarch larvae will only eat milkweed. Consider plantings to watch the metamorphosis of larvae to butterfly.
Create a Hummingbird Haven
Hummingbirds are attracted to red and brightly colored flowers of yellow, orange, pink and purple. Tubular-shaped blossoms hold the most nectar. Petunias, cleomes, columbines and daylilies are a few flower choices. Also consider herbs, flowering shrubs, dwarf trees and vines. Give them room to hover and remember not to include red dye in sugar water if feeding. Use red plants to attract instead!
It surprises us how many people want flowers that do not attract bees. Did you know only worker bees sting, and only if they feel threatened? Worker bees are female and die once they sting. Male bees, or drones, do not have stingers. Bees like flowers in blue and yellow with a shallow landing area. Try achillea, allium, geranium, phlox or salvia for starters.