Pollinator Garden Information
Let’s talk about the birds and the bees… and flowering plants too!
Without bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds we would not have so many different kinds of beautiful flowers. Likewise, without the flowers we would not have these beautiful animals. These tiny animals, as well as many other insects and even bats, pollinate plants. Pollination allows plants to produce its next generation. All these animals benefit from the nectar produced by plants. How did the plants and these animals learn to help each other?
Consider how the bees, the most abundant of the animal pollinators, and flowers evolved together. Th Four kinds of plants in exist today: mosses, ferns, evergreens and flowering plants. The flowering plants comprise over eighty percent of all these plants. Likewise, the bees, with over twenty thousand bee species currently in existence, are one of the most prominent types of animal.
Both flowering plants and bees evolved together and gave each what the other needed to become so successful. The flowering plants feed the bees with nectar and pollen. The bees impregnate the flowers with the pollen they need to produce the next generation. The flowers have found multiple ways to attract the bees. The bees, in turn, have developed ingenious ways to find the flowers and efficiently carry the pollen.
As important as the bees and the flowers are to each other, bees are also important to us. They are responsible for pollinating over seventy percent of all flowering plants. Without the bees our diets would be severely limited. The world would have no almonds. There would be no wine and many fewer fruits and vegetables. You would have to eat your morning cereal without blueberries or bananas.
This most successful marriage is now threatened. Honeybees and all the native bees have been dying in unprecedented numbers for over fifteen years. Over ten million honeybee hives have been lost. Several species of bumblebees are now extinct. Because of the bee shortage, California almond growers must spend over three million dollars each year to import bees to pollinate their trees.
Global warming, mites, viruses, and pesticides have all been implicated as causative factors. Of special interest to the gardener are two other threats: invasive species and habitat fragmentation. Invasive plants kill the native plants on which many bees depend. Loss of forests, increased pavement, and urbanization of America diminish the number of flowering plants available to bees.
Although bees are the most numerous of the pollinators, we all appreciate the other beautiful pollinators as well. Problems that affect the bees also affect the butterflies and hummingbirds. At present In Maryland alone there are over 400 species of bees, 150 species of butterflies, and 2 species of hummingbirds. How can we make gardens which will allow plants to thrive and be home to these pollinators by planting native plants? Native flowering plants are those that have been here before the Pilgrims arrived in America. They are especially important to native bees and other native pollinators because many will thrive only on the nectar produced by these plants.
How to Plant a Pollinator-Friendly Backyard
- Plant seventy five percent native plants and twenty five percent non-natives
- Use multiple colors.
- Plant in groups of at least three of each variety. Groups of seven or more are ideal.
- Make sure your garden has something blooming from Spring through Fall to feed the pollinators all season long.
- Avoid plants with double petals that hide the stamens and pistils.
- Avoid highly hybridized varieties that have had nectar and pollen bred out of them.
- Decrease the size of your weed-free lawns and plant lawns with white clover mixed in instead.
- Go easy on the mulch. Native bees cannot get through mulch to make ground nests.
- Plant ground covers, also known as “green mulch” between the taller plants.
- Build bee hotels for Mason bees.
- Consider leaving a pile of fallen leaves over the winter in a discrete location in the garden or woody area. Leaf litter provides important habitat for many overwintering butterfly caterpillars.
- Leave woody stems above ground over the winter to provide habitat for bees and food for birds.
A pollinator garden will be a beautiful garden and require less maintenance than most other gardens. So start digging!
BY THE NUMBERS
Flowering plants comprise over 80% of all plants.
Bees pollinate over seventy percent of all flowering plants.
DID YOU KNOW?
There are over
species of bees in the world
There are over
species of bees in Maryland
There are over
species of butterflies in Maryland
Ready to Hear More?
Listen to the Sci’more Podcast to hear Baltimore’s local historian and garden enthusiast, Ann Giroux, discuss tulips, urban green spaces, the social life of trees.
Follow the links below to learn more and connect with some of the gardening experts in our area.