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   Attracting Pollinators to the Garden  

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Birds do it, Bees do it... (But honey bees are NOT the best at it!)

You may not think about plants having sex in the garden, but that's exactly what the flowers are designed for - to attract a myriad of insects for SEX SEX SEX. Pollinators are necessary to ensure that your fruit and vegetable produce fruit.  Without the constant presence of pollinating insects, humanity would starve in one season.

Bumblebees, hoverflies, flies, and wild mason bees are key pollinators. There are at least 250 wild bee species, all of which contribute more than honeybees do. While honeybees are helpful, they don't provide the same level of service as other insect species, says the seminal 2006 UK study by Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.  Your mission is to ensure the right habitat and host plants in your garden.

Habitat:   Who lives in Insect Hotels? (for ideas, see the link above the photos in right nav bar)

Habitat is not just host plants, but hiding and breeding places. Mason and solitary bees lay their eggs in straw, long dead fallen trees, or even a cluster of paper straws and insect hotels!

Wasps: cuckoo wasps, parasitic wasps and many more species

Dragonflies, beetles, lacewings, ladybirds. moths, spiders, frogs, newts, hedgehogs, et al.

● see a large assortment of Insect Hotels at Gardener's Supply

Bees: leafcutter bees, masked bees, mason bees, digger bees and hundreds more. Bumblebees nest in hollow trees and in rodent burrows. They are among the first bees to emerge in the spring and the last to disappear in fall. They are superb pollinators of tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, clover, and more. Bumblebees can “buzz pollinate” by hanging on a flower and vibrating with their flight muscles to release pollen.

Mason and Leafcutter Bees select existing hollow stems and bored holes in which to build their multiple nest chambers. They carry pollen underneath their bodies rather than on their legs like most bees, and the pollen falls off rather easily. Mason bees are first-class pollinators of many fruit crops, toiling long hours and in inclement weather. Squash and Gourd Bees help pollinate up to eighty percent of squash, pumpkins, and melons. They are ground nesters, so it is important to leave some open dirt for the these very important bees as well.

Host Plants:  Plant Smart!

The key is to ensure there is a succession of bloom so there is always something to attract pollinators.  This will vary by your gardening zone and the amount of sun you get. 

Here are the plants, shrubs and trees that work in just about any area:

Lavandula spp. (Lavender), Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Salvia spp. (Sage), Echinacea spp. (Coneflower), Helianthus spp. (Sunflower), Cercis spp. (Redbud), Nepeta spp. (Catnip), Penstemon spp. (Penstemon), Stachys spp. (Lamb’s ears), Verbena spp. (Verbena), Phacelia spp. (Bells or Phacelia), Aster spp. (Aster), Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susan), Origanum spp. (Oregano), Achilliea millefolium (Yarrow).

Ecoregional Planting Guides from Pollinator Partnership

The USDA site has helpful information too:

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