Do you dream of having or have a garden, flower pots or orchard that you want to see succeed? One very important step should be to attract pollinators, like birds, bees
and flies - get these creatures working for you! Here are some tips on inviting them to your neighbourhood!
What is a pollinator?
A pollinator is the ‘agent’ responsible for plant reproduction, transferring pollen from
plant to plant. Almost 90% of flowering plants need pollinators to reproduce.
In B.C., pollinators can be any of variety of creatures, including insects such as
bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, and birds, but the vast majority of pollinators are bees.
What are the benefits of attracting pollinators?
Pollinators enable the process of pollination, of the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, which is essential for many plants to reproduce.
Pollinators are needed to create one third of the food we eat (nuts, fruit, vegetables and herbs). Plants that require insect pollination are also important sources of food for wildlife. There are many other added benefits of attracting pollinators:
Many pollinators, such as hover flies and wasps, can help control unwanted pests.
Attracting a variety of pollinators increases the
biological diversity of your garden, yard, acreage, farm and/or community.
Some native bees tunnel in the soil, thus improving soil quality through nutrient mixing and water movement.
Quality of life! Having flowers around all spring,
summer and autumn is a joy, and having beautiful
butterflies and colourful native bees visit makes it even more fun.
TIPS FOR ATTRACTING INSECT POLLINATORS
Use local native plants when possible
Native pollinators are essential to the reproduction of native flowering plants and vice versa. Native plants also offer the benefit that they are adapted to our climate and probably require less watering and care. Some introduced plants are great food sources for our pollinators, but it is wise to distinguish between well-behaved introduced species and invasive plant species. It is recommended that you visit your local plant nursery to source native and noninvasive introduced plants that will be beneficial to pollinators. Native plants may, unfortunately, be harder to source, so if you are able to plant a diverse garden that includes ‘bee-friendly’ noninvasive plants, regardless of origin, you are off to a good start.
In the Okanagan, examples of local nurseries that sell native and xeriscape plants include:
Sagebrush Nursery (Oliver)
Grasslands Nursery (Summerland)
Wild Blooms (Kelowna)
Dusty Shovels (Vernon).
One great way to choose plants that pollinators like is to spend a few minutes at a nursery or garden centre and watch which plants the bees are visiting.
Choose several colours and shapes of flowers
By choosing a diversity of flowering plants, the chance of attracting a wider range of pollinators increases. Not all pollinators are attracted to the same coloured or shaped flower as not all feeding parts are alike or the same size:
• To attract butterflies and day moths: plant blue, violet and red flowers that are open and deeper and plants that can host their caterpillar stage
• To attract beetles: plant open bowl shaped flowers
• To attract night moths: plant light coloured (white, cream or pale green) flowers that are strongly sweet scented
• To attract bees: plant any plant with abundant pollen and nectar, difference in shape and size of flowers, just means difference in the shapes and sizes of bees that you attract
• To attract hummingbirds: plant brightly coloured flowers that are tubular shaped - it’s great if they droop or hang
Plant flowers in clumps
Pollinators benefit from less fragmentation between pollination stops, this means hey don’t need to do as much flying to find enough food. Large clumps of an excellent food item also mean it’s easier for a pollinator to learn how to get resources because they are just learning about one flower type at a time.
Have a diversity of plants flowering all season
Important for pollinator insects, in particular, is providing a variety of plants that will offer a progression of blooms throughout the season. Most bees are generalists, feeding on a variety of plants and many species of pollinators arrive at varied times throughout the season, but all require flowers to survive.
Plant where pollinators will visit
Insect pollinators prefer sun to shade and areas that are not windy. For butterflies, the location is ideal if there is also a source of soil moisture.
Enhance pollinator habitat
Not only do pollinators require flowers for pollen and nectar, many benefit from additions to the landscape such as:
• Shallow water baths for drinking
• Muddy areas for nutrients and/or nesting materials gathering
• Leave debris (leaves, twigs, logs, shrubs) in the garden or yard for nesting and over-wintering habitat.
Avoid using pesticides whenever possible
Most pesticides are non-selective and may actually harm the beneficial insects you are trying to attract5. Even low levels of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, CAN affect bee longevity, memory, navigation and foraging abilities.
EXAMPLES OF PLANTS THAT MAY ATTRACT INSECT POLLINATORS
Arrowleaf balsamroot* (photo 1)
Mock orange* (photo 2)
Red osier dogwood*
Sandbar willow (not weeping willows)*
Edible fruit trees (cherry, apricot, plum)
Big basin sage*
Brown-eyed susan* (photo 3)
Herbs (eg oregano, spearmint, rosemary)
Sage (photo 4)
Parsnip flowered buckwheat*
* Native, naturally occurring in the Okanagan