Attracting Pollinators

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!

  • 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.


1. 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.


2. 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 tube-shaped - it’s great if they droop or hang


Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Restoration of pond in fruit tree orchard



Okanagan Similkameen stewardship species and spaces



Okanagan Invasive Species Hound's Tongue



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 such as butterflies, beetles, flies, or even birds, but the vast majority of pollinators are bees.

What are the benefits of attracting pollinators?

Pollinators enable the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, which is essential for many plants to reproduce and make seeds.

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:

3. 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.


4. 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.


5. Enhance pollinator habitat

Not only do pollinators require flowers for pollen and nectar, they also need other features 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.


6. Avoid using pesticides whenever possible

Most pesticides are non-selective and may actually harm the beneficial insects you are trying to attract.

Even low pesticide levels, especially neonicotinoids, can affect bee longevity, navigation and foraging ability.



Pollinators like bees and butterflies visit flowers and plants because the pollen and nectar inside provides them with nutrients.  Because of this, it is important to ensure that any pollinator garden you create has a large variety of flowers and also ensure that there are flowers available at and given time of the year.   A garden that is bursting with flowers in April but has nothing to offer in August will not be as helpful as a garden that has

Check out some of the flowering plants below that bees and other pollinators like to visit!


Spring blooming:

  • Arrowleaf Balsamroot* 

  • Upland Larkspur*

  • Nodding Onion*

  • Oregon-grape*

  • Red-osier Dogwood* (photo 1)

  • Native willow species* (not weeping willow*

  • Saskatoon*

  • Lilacs

  • Edible fruit trees (cherry, apricot, plum)

  • Mock Orange*  (photo 2)

Summer blooming:

  • Parsnip-flowered Buckwheat*

  • Yarrow*

  • Brown-eyed Susan*  (photo 3)

  • Herbs like oregano, spearmint, sage, etc

  • Lavender

  • Big Sage* 

  • Common Snowberry *

  • Ocean Spray*

  • Silky Lupine*

  • Marigolds

  • Showy Aster* (photo 4)

Autumn blooming:

  • Rabbit-brush* (photo 5)

  • Snow Buckwheat*

  • Canada Goldenrod*

  • Hollyhock

  • Sedum species

                         * Native plant species


Our native bees do not produce honey in large quantities, they rarely sting, and many are solitary, though all of our bumblebee species are social. The production of honey is done by honey bees, which are native to Europe. Native bees are the most common pollinators in Canada and have been estimated to contribute nearly 1.2 billion dollars/year to the value of Canadian crop yields.

There are over 800 species of native bees in Canada.

There are an estimated 300-350 species of bees in the Okanagan-Similkameen,
we live in a bee HOT SPOT!




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We acknowledge that our initiatives take place primarily on the traditional, unceded territories of the Syilx/Okanagan people.


Mail:  #6--477 Martin St, Penticton, BC, V2A 5L2

Phone:  250-770-1467

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