So when people talk about pollinators, what do you think of? Well, most people go to Honeybees. Did you know that the common Honeybee is actually from Europe? They are great for pollinating our Rosaceae (Rose Family) fruit crops, which includes peaches, cherries, apples, strawberries and raspberry among many more. Honeybees will feed strictly on my flowering plant at a time, such as peaches, before they move onto other plants.
|Honeybee, Lisa Mason CSUE Agent|
Our native pollinators including native solitary bees, syrphid flies (hover flies), bumblebees, beetles, butterflies, moths and animals like bats. Most of these native pollinators need a variety of resources to get enough nutrients. They are grazers or buffet eaters rather than eating just one item at a time. I am sure you know people that fit into both those categories.
|Common blue butterfly-TRA|
Of course, there are native pollinators that have specific relationships with one plant such as the yucca moth, Tegeticula yuccasella, which lives its entire life in some way on or within the Yucca and the Gaillardia moth, Schinia masoni. So always exceptions to the rule.
|Yucca moth- Malisa Science Source photo|
In Colorado, we have 946 native bees, 250 species of butterflies, 1000 species of Moths, many wasps, beetles and flies. This information can be found at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agplants/native-pollinators
Of the syrphid flies, aka hover flies aka flower flies there are 900 species in North America. Many of these look like bees so birds and other creatures do not try to eat them. I personally find them quite cute. And they are also beneficial insects!
So what can you do in your garden and your community? You can plant a variety of plants, native plants, and do your homework on what each specific pollinator needs. For example, solitary bees need bare soil to build their nests. It may appear that there is a colony, but there it is actually more of an apartment or town-home situation where one bee lives in their own condominium.
|Solitary bee- MaLisa Spring Photo|
Or take note of what pollinators you are attracting. Some of our agents do citizen science projects, which help us to track what people are seeing. Some pollinators will need a source of water other than just pollen and nectar. So shallow water sources can be a benefit in the garden. Planting a variety of types of plants will assist as well. Some of the native bees like to nest at the base of native grasses such as Little Bluestem https://xerces.org/blog/plants-for-pollinators-little-bluestem
|Standing Ovation little bluestem- Colostate|
Do not only plant a variety of plants that bloom at once, but that grow and bloom throughout the year. For example, we had a yarrow in our demonstration garden blooming last November and I observed syrphid flies hovering over and feeding on the yarrow. Use natives from your area. Some cultivars are so far from their origin that they are not good sources of pollen and nectar. Typically, plants with double or triple the number of petals, tetraploids, are NOT good for a pollinator garden.
|Pollinator on Columbine|
For more information on pollinator habitat see our factsheet: https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/creating-pollinator-habitat-5-616/
Take care of weeds! Weeds compete with natives and garden plants and typically are not a good source of pollen and nectar for the pollinators. Weeds also affect the environment and agriculture but out competing, stealing resources, attracting insects like aphids and overall just look messy. Support conservation efforts of plants in your area. If you need education on native plants, which ones are good pollinators, historic uses, plant id and landscape sustainability, check out the CSU Extension Native Plant Master’s Program. We have 13 counties that offer this series of classes. http://conativeplantmaster.colostate.edu/
By Susan Carter, Horticulture and Natural Resource Agent in the Tri River Area