Four ways to encourage pollinators to your garden
Where the wild things are
Pollinators are so valuable for our gardens.
They transfer pollen from flower to flower, helping plants to reproduce, ensuring their genetic health and diversity, whilst also providing us with fruit and flowers.
There are many pollinators that we can persuade to our gardens, bees including solitary and honey bees, butterflies, moths, wasps and beetles, just to name a few.
But to attract them to our gardens, there are some vital resources that they need to survive. So here are a few things that we can do.
Leave fallen fruit under trees
We all know how important it is to choose plants for our garden that are pollinator-friendly. But did you know how beneficial planting fruit trees in your garden is to pollinators?
If you have a bit of space in your garden, consider planting fruit trees. Not only are you rewarded with beautiful fruit, but when the fruit falls, as it does naturally, it is a wonderful source of food for insects and pollinators.
By leaving this fallen overripe fruit on the ground, you will attract many pollinators to your garden, such as bees and butterflies. But you will attract the birds as well, such as blackbirds, who will also appreciate the sweet treats. A biodiverse ecosystem.
Pollinators need a habitat. And different pollinators need specific habitats and conditions in which to thrive in.
However destruction of habitats, intensification of farming and changes to the landscape have all meant the decline or loss of these crucial habitats.
Providing a habitat to pollinators naturally creates shelter for them, which is so important to their health and wellbeing, in terms of nesting and hibernation. For example, solitary bees are ground nesting, whereas bumblebees like long grass.
We can all do our bit for pollinators simply by leaving areas of grass long and untidy on purpose. This also benefits many species of beetles and insects who will thank you for it.
Use pesticides sparingly or not at all
Pesticides and insecticides can be very useful when dealing with mass breakouts of pests on our plants and crops. However they can be very dangerous to pollinators.
If used incorrectly, these chemicals can kill pollinators through direct contact or wipe out colonies of bees by the transfer of contaminated pollen.
But there are a few things we can do.
Applying pesticides in the evening or early morning if spraying directly on to the flowers can help, as pollinators will not be out and about at these times.
The weather conditions can also play a vital role when using pesticides, as windy days can mean that the pesticide drifts to areas where pollinators are foraging or into water courses, which can have very damaging consequences.
Going organic and not using any form of pesticide at all may be just about the best way to aid our pollinators, but it is appreciated that this is not always possible.
Organic gardening relies on using forms of natural pest control. These include encouraging ladybirds to control infestations of aphids or by using certain plants through companion planting to deter pests.
All forms of pest control, be they organic or not, have their place in our gardens. It is all about finding what works best for you and your garden. By using pesticides sensibly and thoughtfully when it comes to aiding our lovely pollinators, we can still do our bit.
Provide food, water and larval food plants
Pollinators require pollen and nectar to survive.
There are an abundance of plants that are attractive to pollinators, but variety is key. This ensures that you can cater for all kinds of different pollinators. Plants with single flowers, not doubles, with a open, flat surface are particularly sought after by bees and butterflies.
Native plan ts to your area are the very best. They are vital to the local ecosystem, indigenous and therefore part of the very fabric of the biodiversity in your area.
Providing a source of food from early spring to late fall will earn you lots of pollinator points. A good example of this is allowing ivy to grow, as the flowers in the fall are a wonderful late season food source.
As well as food, pollinators need water to drink. There are many natural sources of water in our gardens, but we can also help by placing a shallow bird bath. This does not only benefit the birds in our gardens, but it will be frequented by thirsty bees and butterflies as well.
Native plants are so valuable to the success of our butterflies, as they need these to provide a food source to their larvae. Without these key larval food plants, we would have no caterpillars and therefore, no butterflies.
Each species of butterfly has its own specific needs in terms of a food plant for its larvae. This actually creates a very balanced ecosystem, meaning that no one plant species can become wiped out through heavy feeding.
Nasturtiums are wonderful food plants to the Cabbage white butterflies and nettles will bring many Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals to your garden.
Another reason to keep an area of your garden untidy and let the nettles grow. For the pollinators, of course.