With fewer honeybees these days, it’s time to welcome alternative pollinators into your garden. Here are some facts and tips about these “new” little neighbors.
Prepare for “New” Pollinators
The native pollinators in your region have co-evolved with the native plants, so use native wildflowers to draw them to your yard.
Although pollinators are attracted to fragrance and color, their different tongue sizes mean that they prefer different types of flowers.
• Short-tongue bees such as alkali, plasterer, and sweat bees dine only on open flowers like asters, calendulas, and daisies.
• Long-tongue bees such as bumble-, digger, leaf cutter, mason, miner, and squash bees drink from deeper, tube-shape flowers like honeysuckle, lupines, salvias, and snapdragons.
• Many butterflies and moths have an extremely long, tubelike tongue called a proboscis, which is coiled when not in use, so flowers with a tubular shape also attract them.
• Large butterflies have long legs and need a platform on which to land. The best choices for them are flowers with multiple tiny blossoms, such as buddleia, lilacs, phlox, Queen Anne’s lace, and yarrow. They can get nectar from many small blossoms while perched in one place, saving energy.
What’s Nectar? What’s Pollen?
• Nectar is the sweet juice that flowers exude to attract insects. It contains complex sugars that give pollinators the energy to make their rounds.
• Pollen is the fine powder produced by the male parts (stamens) of a flower. Pollinators love it for its rich proteins and fats. As they fly from flower to flower collecting both pollen and nectar to feed to their young, pollen rubs off the flowers and onto the insects. They carry it to their next stop—a female flower—and we have pollination!