Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pollinator Week 2015

Mexican lavender is a favorite
of bees.  I always enjoy watching
them at my local nursery because
I'll spot hundreds of honey bees!
This week (June 15-19) is officially Pollinator Week, so lets take some time to celebrate the little insects that help our landscapes grow!

Pollinators come in all shapes and sizes, but the main pollinators for fruiting and flowering plants are insects.  Bats, birds, and small mammals definitely do their part, but nothing compares to an insect.  And no insect can compete with the pollinating power of the almighty honey bee!

Licorice Mint - Anise Hyssop
Known to be a very good flower
for attracting native bees,
honey bees and other
If you want to encourage some pollinators in your garden, here are some tips and plants that I would suggest growing:

  • Let your weeds flower - butteflies, beneficial insects, bees and others 
  • LOVE weeds.  Weeds generally have a lot of nectar and pollen and are attractive to pollinators.  The worst yard for pollinators is a bare turf lawn.  Let something bloom and see the butterflies and bees flood in.
  • Anything with a yellow, white or purple flower.  These are the colors that typically attract insects.  FYI - insects cannot see red, so unless that red flower has another color component or is extremely fragrant (like roses), it probably isn't being pollinated by an insect.  If you think about it, very few native plants have red flowers.  
  • Herbs of any time.  Let those herbs flower! We grow herbs to pinch off and usually discourage them from flowering, but if you let a small bunch go to flower you will be surprised at what insects are drawn to it.  Syrphid flies (a good predatory insect in the garden), pollinating flies and beetles, butterflies and bees.  Try thyme, parsley, dill, and mints... especially those mints!

Dill flowering
Parsley flowering
  • Veggie Garden!  Veggies and fruits usually fruit in yellow and white and with good reason.  Many of them require an insect to pollinate them or they will not produce fruit. If you plant a good garden you will not only get food, but pollinators.  The more flowers in your landscape, the more pollinators will visit.
  • Butterfly attracting plants - Salvia and lantana have long been planted in lanscapes for both their tolerance to heat and drought, but also because they are excellent at attracting butterflies!
  • Host plants - if you want butterflies to be around, you should consider planting both the plants the butterflies lay their eggs on and adult food (salvia and lantana)
    • Swallowtails - dill, parsley, fennel, citrus, pipevine
    • Monarchs - milkweed
    • Zebra and Fritillaries - passion flowers

My new favorite plant is a yellow variety of the torch lily.  They are a hummingbird plant and attract a good number of pollinators.  Within seconds of planting these in my garden, I had three butterflies fly over to investigate!

Bottom line, just let things flower and the pollinators will come. If you don't have their food, don't expect them to enter your yard!  Enjoy your pollinators this Pollinator Week!