This week, June 18 – 24, 2012 is National Pollinator Week which was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator Partnership.
What You Can Do For Pollinators
Create a pollinator-friendly garden habitat in just a few simple steps.
Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants flowering from spring through fall. Check for the species or cultivars best suited to your area and gradually replace lawn grass with flower beds.
Plant native to your region using plants that provide nectar for adults plus food for insect larvae, such as milkweed for monarchs. If you do use non-native plants, choose ones that don’t spread easily, since these could become invasive.
Select old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible because breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.
Install ‘houses’ for bats and native bees. For example, use wood blocks with holes or small open patches of mud. As little as 12” across is sufficient for some bees.
Avoid pesticides, even so-called “natural” ones such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). If you must use them, use the most selective and least toxic ones and apply them at night when most pollinators aren’t active.
Supply water for all wildlife. A dripping faucet or a suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom is sufficient for some insects. Other wildlife need a small container of water.
Provide water for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones and fill to overflowing with water.
Types of Pollinators
When we think of pollinators, non-native Honey Bees are usually what come to mind. We have some absolutely fascinating native bees as well as secondary pollinators like butterflies, moths, beetles and flies in North America. Plant a diversity of native plants and you will attract a huge assortment of pollinators.
Here are some examples from my landscape:
Syrphid (Flower) Flies
Bee mimics that are regular flower visitors. Many Syrphids have black and yellow coloration. They visit early flowering woodland natives such as Virginia Waterleaf as well as prairie species, Ohio Spiderwort pictured here.
A fly that mimics a wasp with its narrow waist. Likes to visit white flowering woodland native plants. In my yard it visits Long Styled Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza longistylis), Tall (Purple) Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dasycarpum) and Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus).
Bee Flies (Bombylius species)
Flower visiting flies have tubular mouthparts with a sponge-pad on the end. The mouthpart is short so most flies visit open flowers where there’s easy access to nectar. Bee Flies hover next to flowers and have a longer tongue than other fly species so can reach further into flowers. Look for them in early spring, they visit our Bloodroot flowers as well as American Plum.
Other types of flower-visiting flies include Tachinid Flies, Bee Flies and Muscid Flies.
Long Horned Beetle ~ Euderces species
An ant mimic, this beetle was consuming pollen on False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) and Canada Anemone flowers (Anemone canadensis) in our yard.
Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae family)
Soldier Beetles love the pollen on many of our prairie natives such as Coneflowers and Goldenrod.
Tumbling Flower Beetles (Mordellidae family)
Tumbling Flower Beetles are most often found in our yard on white flowering woodland natives. They lay their eggs on the flowers, the larvae hitch a ride back to wasp and bee nests where they parasitize the wasp and bee larvae.
This tiny moth likes False Solomon’s Seal flowers. It’s larval host plant is Heart Leaved Four-O’Clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea).
Yellow Collared Scape Moth ~ Cisseps fulvicollis
Similar in appearance to the Virginia Ctenucha moth, the Yellow Collared Scape Moth is common in our landscape in the late fall nectaring on Goldenrod species.
Hummingbird Clearwing Moth ~ Hemaris species
A wonderful hovering moth, it likes the tubular flowers of Phlox species and Virginia Bluebells.
Potter & Mason Wasps (Subfamily Eumeninae)
These wasps like most of the prairie species, shown on the left on Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium).
Great Black Wasps ~ Sphex pensylvanicus
Great Black Wasps are large wasps, their favorite plant in our yard in Spotted Bee Balm (Monarda punctata). Pollen from this prairie native collects on their backs as they visit the flowers for nectar.
Sand Wasps ~ Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus
These wasps visit our yard in late summer.
Carder Bees ~ Anthidium species
New to our yard this year, this may be one of the adventive species from Europe. Carder bees collect hairs from plants to fashion their nests. The Carder Bees in our yard collect hair from Ohio Spiderwort.
Mining Bees ~ Andrena species
Some of the first bees to emerge in the spring. Very common on woodland spring ephemerals. Mining Bees nest in the ground. Leave some bare soil areas in your yard for ground nesting species.
Mason Bees ~ Osmia species
Mason bees nest in cavities and are the most common species in our bee boards pictured above.
Sweat Bees ~ Lasioglossum species
Tiny bees, their size allows them to crawl into tubular flowers or feed on pollen by clinging to the anthers.
Small Carpenter Bees ~ Ceratina species
These bees like woodland natives, pictured here on Wild Geranium.
Digger Bees ~ Melissodes species
Digger Bees are active in our yard starting in late June. One of their favorites is Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).
Cuckoo Bees ~ Sphecodes species
These bees are actually sweat bees but fall in the general category of Cuckoo Bees. They don’t have any pollen collecting structures so lay their eggs in other sweat bee nests.
Cuckoo Bees ~ Nomada species
These bees only visit flowers for nectar. They also lay their eggs in other bee nests, often Mining Bees. They larvae hatch and kill the host bee larvae.
Yellow Faced Bees ~ Hylaeus species
Yellow Faced Bees also don’t have any mechanism for carrying pollen. They instead consume it and store it in their stomachs and regurgitate it later.
Green Sweat Bees ~ Agapostemon species
Bright green bodies and striped abdomen make these bees especially attractive. Look for them on both woodland natives such as Virginia Waterleaf, as well as Coneflower species.
Bumble Bees ~ Bombus auricomus
Leaf Cutter Bees ~ Megachile species
Leaf Cutter Bees have flatter abdomens than other bees commonly seen in our landscape. They collect pollen on the underside of the abdomen instead of on leg combs.
Further Reading: The Xerces Society. (2011). Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
© 2012, Heather Holm. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us