Attract More Pollinators

We tend to take pollinators for granted.  I did anyway.  They hang around my garden pollinating.  But as in many aspects of life, bees were only a 30-second sound bite.  I knew all I needed to know with about thirty-seconds worth of information.
When I started to get into native plants, I started to learn more about pollinators, and if truth be told, all insects.  And I’m not a bug person.  I’m a girly girl when it comes to bugs.

Thank goodness there are entomologists out there. I have heard some speak and read their research. I drank the Kool-Aid and I’m a believer that the health of your garden is not measured by the size and number of flower blooms but on the number of insects living in your garden.

Here are some interesting tidbits I’ve learned about bees.
Honey bees are not native to North America.  The colonists brought them to Jamestown and Plymouth.  I wonder what those voyages were like with a bunch of honeybees in the hold (and elsewhere) on the ship.
None of our native bees are as good at making honey as honey bees.  Most of our native bees are solitary, nonaggressive, and ground nesting.  If you see a grouping of holes in the ground, they may be the homes of native bees.  Yellow jackets, an aggressive wasp that I really, really don’t like, use a single hole in the ground to access their nests.
There are over 4000 native bees in North America.  Bumble bees are one of our native bees.  Native plants and insects evolved together over thousands of years so there are flowers that are best pollinated by native bees.  Squash blossoms are a good example.  Squash flowers are long and are best pollinated by bumblebees getting deep in the bloom and vibrating the flower to get to the pollen and nectar.  Honeybees cannot do that.
To attract more bees to your garden, keep the following in mind:
Bees need food all season long so make sure you have flowers in bloom from Spring until frost.
Plant some natives in your garden beds. These native plants will attract native bees and butterflies and other pollinators.
Plant flowers in a variety of colors and shapes. Since there are four thousand different species of native bees in North America in different sizes with different tongue lengths, they need to feed on different shaped flowers. Growing a variety of flowers in different shapes will attract and benefit more bees.

Mary Pellerito is a Michigan-based garden and nature writer. Mary is a member of the Garden Writer’s Association, Wild Ones, and she is a Master Gardener.  This article was previously published on her blog Going Native.

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