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Planting for Pollinators: How To Attract The Key to Your Plants' Success

posted on August 26, 2016

Many crops, from apples and pears to melons and cucumbers, require an animal to move pollen from one flower or plant to another for it to bear fruit and reproduce. Indeed, it is widely reported that one-third of our crops are dependent on an animal pollinator.

Pollinators are as diverse as the plants they visit: bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds and even some species of bats can serve as pollinators. In most of the United States, wild bees, a category that includes feral honeybees but also native bumblebees and solitary bees, are among the most efficient and widespread pollinators. Since apiaries may not be practical for small-scale fruit and vegetable growers, attracting these “free” sources of pollinators is essential for the productivity of backyard gardens and small plots. The following information is intended to help growers and gardeners attract pollinators and boost their local populations.

Provide Habitat

Pollinators, like all animals, need habitat that is adequate for raising their young, provides
food and serves as a refuge during harsh weather. Native bees, including bumblebee and solitary bees, need a minimally disturbed site where they can either burrow into the ground or build a nest in the cavity of a branch or log. Ideally, this area should be located only a few hundred yards from any nearby crop plot in order to encourage optimal bee foraging.

Plant Pollinator-Friendly Perennials

Adding various flowering plants to a site can not only attract more pollinators but also provide them with an alternative source from which they can gather nectar when certain crops may not be flowering. Generally, native plants are the most desirable; especially when the goal is to attract native pollinators. Also, try to use a variety of plants that will bloom at different intervals throughout the growing season.

Pollinator-friendly perennials can include woody plants like currant, dogwood, serviceberry and
honeysuckle. Herbaceous perennials which fit the bill include sedum, yarrow, beebalm, columbine and many, many others. The following photos show some examples of native pollinator-friendly perennials that work great in the American Midwest.

purple coneflower

The mid-summer blooms of purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), such as those above, are sure to stand out in any pollinator refuge.

butterfly weed

The vivid orange flower-heads of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) provide striking color in any landscape. Added bonus: Besides providing floral nectar, the leaves and stems of Asclepias are a food source for the caterpillars of the threatened Monarch butterfly.

arizona red shades

A bumblebee eagerly forages on an “Arizona Red Shades” blanket flower (Gaillardia grandiflora Arizona).

Minimize Pesticide Use

Often, an insecticide that is lethal to an insect pest species can also harm a beneficial insect pollinator. In the interest of insect pollinators, it is advisable to limit pesticide use only when it is required to control a pest issue. Additional steps can often be taken to further limit pollinators’ exposure to pesticides, such as applications during the times of the day when key pollinators are less active.

We at TransAgra International Inc. take pride in the fact that CULBAC® Plant products, when used as directed, present no threat to pollinators or other wildlife. Our biostimulants only boost plant and soil health, which is great news for pollinators and growers alike!

So while we are working in our yards this summer, we may consider changes we can make to boost
pollinator populations. Even minor steps, such as the planting of a pollinator-friendly perennial, can add up to big rewards in the garden.

TransAgra | 101 Gilbert Street | PO Box 68 | Storm Lake, Iowa 50588 | (800) 238-6075

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