Pollinator gardens are not only beautiful, they actually play a crucial role in our ecosystem. So, why are pollinator gardens important? Should you start a pollinator garden at home? Read on to find out.
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What is a Pollinator Garden?
A pollinator garden is a type of garden that is planted specifically to attract pollinating insects. This is done by planting nectar and pollen producing plants, as well as plants that provide shelter for pollinators.
Pesticides should be prohibited in pollinator gardens, as it will kill pollinating insects. If there is an issue with pests, such as aphids for example, organic methods should be used.
What is Pollination?
Pollination is important because it is the way plants reproduce. Pollination occurs when pollen grains from the male anther of a flower is transferred to the female stigma. When pollen is transferred between flowers, seeds are produced. These seeds contain the genetic information that is used to create new plants.
Flowers need some help getting their pollen to another flower. Animals and insects unknowingly transfer pollen to other plants. That’s why they are called pollinators.
This usually happens when the animal or insect is collecting pollen or nectar from the flower. Pollen grains will get stuck on it’s body until it falls off at another flower.
Plants are considered self-pollinating if the plant is able to fertilize itself. Or, they are considered cross-pollinating if they require their pollen to be brought to another flower via wind, animal, or insect.
What are Pollinating Insects and Animals?
The most well known pollinating insects are bees and butterflies. Bees, including honey bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees, visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar. During this process, pollen gets stuck to the bee’s hairy body. Pollen granules then fall off when they visit other flowers.
Butterflies visit a wide variety of wildflowers throughout the day. They do so in order to drink nectar from the flowers. While they do pollinate flowers, their bodies do not carry as much pollen as bees because their long legs tend to keep them elevated above the flower.
Other insect pollinators include wasps, beetles, flies, ants, and moths. Animal pollinators are usually birds and bats. However, monkeys, possums, and rodents can pollinate flowers as well.
Why are Pollinator Gardens Important?
Now that you know what pollination is, you may be wondering, why are pollinator gardens important? As I mentioned earlier, pollination is the way plants reproduce. It is also the way fruits and vegetables grow.
Many crops, such as blueberries, cherries, and almonds, are extremely dependent on bees to pollinate them. It is said that pollinators are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we take. But despite this fact, honey bee populations have been facing a serious decline over recent years.
For bees, their dramatic decline can be attributed to colony collapse disorder, the Varroa mite, and loss of habitat. Not only is their natural habitat being reduced by the destruction of meadows; pesticides and herbicides are killing them and the wildflowers they need for food.
A great way to help native pollinators is by planting a pollinator garden. Pollinator gardens are important because they provide a natural, safe habitat and food source for pollinators, which in turn, keeps them in the area to pollinate our fruit and vegetable crops.
Pollinator gardens are also an important educational tool. Students, and even adults can learn about the interdependent nature of our food ecosystem by observing and growing a pollinator garden.
Tips for Growing a Pollinator Garden
- Choose a sunny spot. Your garden should receive at least 6 hours of sun each day.
- Plant native species of plants and wildflowers. Plants that are native to your area grow better with your region’s soil and climate.
- Plant a variety of flowers. Choose different types, shapes, and colors. This will attract a lot of different pollinators to your garden.
- Choose flowers that bloom at different times. That way your garden will have flowers throughout the year.
- Include a water station for pollinators. Pollinators need an accessible water source.
- Do not use pesticides, as it is harmful to bees and other pollinators. Use natural methods instead.
- Add a bee house for solitary bees, such as mason bees and leafcutter bees.
Bee Houses for Pollinator Gardens
Adding a bee house to your pollinator garden is a great way to introduce pollinators to your garden. While honey bees live together in a hive, solitary bees, such as mason bees live in a bee house.
Mason bees are docile, low maintenance, and most importantly, are excellent pollinators. You can set up a bee house in your pollinator garden in hopes of attracting mason bees, or you can buy mason bee cocoons to place in your bee house.
Get a Bee House Kit With Bees
This is an all in one bee house kit that can be used to raise both mason and leafcutter bees. This bee house is made out of Northwest cedar and includes natural reeds sized for both mason and leafcutter bees. With this kit you’ll also get a book, all the accessories you need, and even the bees. This is the perfect addition to any pollinator garden.
Pollinator gardens are planted specifically to attract pollinating insects. Pollinator gardens are important because they provide a safe and natural habitat for native pollinators. A bee house and solitary bees are a good way to add pollinators to a garden.