June will be just around the corner and we are reminded about the importance of pollinators in our everyday lives with the celebration of National Pollinator Week (June 18-24). A large percentage of our food would not be available without pollination of the plants that food is sourced from. Pollinator numbers have declined greatly in recent times. Eighty-five percent of the land east of the Mississippi is privately owned, so we are all responsible for improving the plight of pollinators by improving our own property in any way that we can.
Adding plants to our land is one of the main ways to improve our pollinator numbers by increasing their food sources. Honey bees are the most successful pollinators in the insect world in terms of amount of pollen they move, followed by native bees, and then by moths and butterflies. Nectar sources for these animals are very important to be available from March through November. As autumn continues to extend, researchers remind us that nectar sources are extra important then, especially to animals that winter over such as bumblebees. We can continue to support our plants as long as possible, rather than cut down plants early.
Much research still needs to be done on the nutritional value of nectar. We know for sure that it varies greatly. Some plants offer more nutrition in their nectar than others and natives offer improved nutrition compared to cultivars and aliens. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder, the best plant genera in the Midwest to support native bees are: helianthus (sunflowers) – 13 bee species; asters – 12 species; solidago (goldenrods) – 1 species; salix (willows) – 9 species; Dalea (prairie clover) – 6 species; amorpha (false indigo) – 4 species; and rudbeckia (black-eyed susan) – 3 species.
Planting groups of these pollinator plants seems to improve the attraction in terms of being noticed by the insects, so bigger groups of the same type may be more helpful than lots of different species.
Keep in mind that pesticide use on any of these plants can affect the health of the pollinators visiting them. Read your information carefully and use responsibly. Research ways to control harmful insects without pesticides whenever possible.
Your local independent garden center staff will be happy to help you with information on/availability of plants to draw pollinators to your gardens and in the process, improve our natural world.
This article is sponsored by McNamara at Sand Point, which has 2 acres of production greenhouses, retail florist and gift shop, as well as retail garden center and wholesale plant business. Contact McNamara by calling 260-747-4131 or visit 4322 DeForest Ave, Ft. Wayne, IN 46809.
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