CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Give the Gift of Pollination

Posted by John Murgel, Douglas County Extension

For many, December brings gift-giving.  One of my favorite things to do in recent years is to give people in my life gifts from or for the growing season—a nice reminder of summer in the dark of winter.  Sometimes it’s even snowy at this time of year.

 While we can’t see most pollinators as they “slumber” through the winter, here are some ideas to keep them front-of-mind for you and for your loved ones!

 1. Pollinator houses.  They come in all shapes and sizes, can be bought pre-made, as a ready-to-assemble kit, or be home-made.  Just be sure to have tailored the home for the pollinators you’re trying to attract.  For cavity-nesting bees, this means deep enough cavities to allow for multiple eggs to be laid, and something that is cleanable from year to year.  Avoid butterfly houses, though—butterflies don’t use them, and they can be a perfect home to European Paper Wasps, voracious predators of caterpillars.  If you purchase (or receive) a pollinator house with both bee cavities and butterfly slits, simply cover over the butterfly portion with fine screen, or fill them with caulk, wood filler, or another wasp-barrier of your choice.


A pollinator hotel with butterfly shelters closed.
Fill in the "butterfly shelter slits," marked here with blue "x"s.

2. Plants.  Seeds and gift cards to garden centers can be a great way to give plants without saddling someone with a potted perennial to keep alive until spring.  Consider including seeds for designed gardens—many free designs can be found from both PlantSelect® and the Colorado Native Plant Society.  Or build a garden around a theme, like providing host plants—either food for caterpillars (if you don’t have paper wasps!) or nesting cavities for bees--and food plants for the adult forms of a single pollinator type.  Don’t forget to include registration information for Native Bee Watch so pollinator observations can contribute to our understanding of wider population trends.


A flowering garden.
A "designed" pollinator garden with native and introduced plants.

3. Pollinator ID materials.  Whether you have a budding young entomologist on your hands or are an enthusiastic amateur with no time for technical language, resources for pollinator identification abound.  Consider books like The Bees in Your Backyard, publications from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, or CSU.  Many online suppliers carry nets and collection aspirators for up-close viewing for the hard-core insect person.

 4. Photography supplies.  Smartphone cameras are amazing these days, and many attachments and pairable devices are available to enhance their capability to get captivating shots of invertebrates, including pollinators.  I’m notoriously good at destroying nice things, so for under $50 this year I purchased both a clip-on close-up lens and a wide-angle lens for my phone and a portable microscope that connects via WiFi.  The photos are great.  More expensive options are out there too, for people who aren’t as clumsy as I am.


Close-up of cabbage worm
An imported cabbage worm--photo taken by yours truly with a cheap lens.

Have fun and be creative, and have a wonderful holiday season.


  1. Thanks And the cabbage worm picture is Nat.Geo. worthy!

  2. Great Blog post to read and thank you for the recommendation to Plant Select for plants and desgin layouts!!!