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 majority of pollinators are bees.
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.
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:
Do you have a garden, flower beds or orchard that you want to see succeed? One important step should be to attract native pollinators, like butterflies, bees and flies and get them started working for you! Here are some tips on inviting them to your yard.
TIPS FOR ATTRACTING NATIVE POLLINATORS
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)
Xen Endemic Nursery (West Kelowna)
Wild Blooms (Kelowna)
Dusty Shovels (Vernon)
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
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
Pollinators don't just need pollen and nectar from flowers. They have other habitat requirements that you can provide to make you garden more attractive to them. These features include:
• Shallow water baths for drinking
• Muddy areas for nutrients and/or nesting materials gathering
• Debris (leaves, twigs, logs, clippiongs) in the garden or yard for nesting and over-wintering
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.
PLANTS TO ATTRACT INSECT POLLINATORS
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 June but has nothing to offer in August will not be as helpful or attractive to pollinators as a garden that has flowers all season long.
Check out just a few of the many flowering plants that bees and other pollinators like to visit!
* = native wildflower species
~ = likes to spread, may need management in small gardens
*Red-osier Dogwood (photo 1)
*Native willow species (not Weeping Willow)
Edible fruit trees (cherry, apricot, plum)
*Mock Orange* (photo 2)
*Wild Roses (photo 3)
Herbs like oregano, spearmint, sage, etc
*Brown-eyed Susan (photo 4)
*Rabbitbrush (photo 5)
(Many late-summer blooming flowers will continue to
produce flowers through into autumn)