Native Plants & Pollinators
What is a
A pollinator is the insect or animal that transfers pollen from plant to plant. Nearly 90% of flowering plants need pollinators for reproduction- without pollination, they cannot create seeds or fruit. Bees, butterflies, beetles, flies, hummingbirds, and even bats can all be pollinators!
If you have a garden, flower beds or an orchard that you want to see thrive, you need pollinators. Native pollinator species can sometimes even be more efficient than honeybees at pollination, so ensuring you have good pollinator habitat is essential to your plants' success!
What are the benefits of attracting pollinators?
In addition to helping create one third of all the food we eat (e.g. nuts, fruit, vegetables and herbs), pollinators are also an important part of the food chain. As most pollinators are insects, attracting pollinators to your yard and orchard will also attract helpful insect-eating birds. These birds won't just eat your pollinators, they will also eat lots of pest insects like leafhoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and more.
There are many other added benefits of attracting pollinators too:
Many pollinators, such as hover flies and wasps, can also 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 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. Some pollinators are only active for a short period of time as adults, and they spend most of their lives as larva or pupa waiting for the right time to emerge and feed. If there aren't enough flowers around when the adults emerge they won't be able to produce another generation of pollinators. Some species like honey bees and bumble bees are active from spring until fall and they need to be able to find enough food throughout the entire season.
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 some of the many flowering plants that bees and other pollinators like to visit! (Click on the photos to expand the gallery)
* = native wildflower species
~ = likes to spread, may need management in small spaces
*Native willow species (not Weeping Willow)
Edible fruit trees (cherry, apricot, plum)
~Herbs like oregano, spearmint, sage, etc
* ~Showy Milkweed
* ~Canada Goldenrod
(Many late-summer blooming flowers will continue to
produce flowers through into autumn)
BEYOND FLOWERS: MORE YARD & GARDEN TIPS
Provide Water Sources
Pollinators, like bees and butterflies, need access to water for drinking and maintaining hydration. Place shallow dishes or birdbaths with pebbles or rocks in your garden to create a water source for them. Make sure to refill the water regularly to keep it fresh.
Create Nesting Sites
Many pollinators require suitable nesting habitats. Incorporate natural materials, such as fallen branches, hollow reeds, or even bundles of twigs, to create nesting areas. These can serve as homes for solitary bees, non-stinging wasps, flies, and other pollinators that don't live socially in hives.
Pollinators require shelter to hide from predators, seek refuge from extreme weather conditions, and even overwinter. Install features like rock piles, deadwood, or insect hotels in your garden to offer shelter options for various pollinators. These structures can mimic natural habitats and provide safe spaces for them to rest and reproduce.
Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides wherever you can. I you must use them, follow the directions closely and use as little as possible. Pesticides are harmful to pollinators and other beneficial insects. Instead, opt for organic pest control methods like companion planting, using insecticidal soaps or oils, or manually removing pests.
IT'S HARD TO BEE-LIEVE...
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 and Similkameen valleys - we live in a bee HOT SPOT!