Pollinators and beneficial insects provide a diversity of benefits when it comes to your garden’s wellbeing and health. As the end of winter is near and signs of warmer days arrive, gardeners from beginner to professional are looking for inspiration. Whether it’s sowing your first seeds or cleaning up any winter debris from your yard, early spring is an inspiring time encouraging new growth and blooms.
However, when planning your garden, many logistical factors come into play. Some are very straightforward, such as checking your tools and replacing old ones. Others are slightly more involved, such as evaluating the health of your annuals, trees, and bushes. At NatureZedge we highly recommend finding ways to encourage eco gardening not only for you but for the planet.
How do pollinators help us?
Pollinators and insects provide a variety of benefits wellbeing and vitality. In this article, we’ll cover some of the most pressing questions as well as how to attract bees, ladybugs, and more.
What Are Pollinators & Why Do We Need Them?
To put it simply, pollinators are animals that assist in the process of pollination. Pollination involves transferring pollen grains from the anther, the male organ, of a plant to another plant’s stigma, the female organ. The planet is a biodiverse ecosystem and without pollination, flowers and plants couldn’t be fertilized, and won’t be able to produce the fruits and vegetables we consume daily. Our survival is a symbiotic relationship we cannot ignore.
Currently, the world is facing an imminent crisis when it comes to pollinators, particularly the bee. While the honey bee makes up a large majority of the pollinating force in America, in the honey bee population within the agricultural industry. This population decline is a troubling trend considering the many essential fruits and products that need pollination such as cucumbers fruits and honey. Many of them are currently “listed species” in other words on disappearance watches for many countries.
Pollinators help us by essentially doing the leg work for us. Though the act of pollinating itself sounds simple, the sheer scale of it is enormous. For example, consider this: the amount of fruit minimum yielded by a dwarf apple tree is 3 bushels. There are 125 apples per bushel, meaning there are 375 apples yielded total. Imagine pollinating over 125 flowers by hand! If we don’t use pollinators, not only will produce yields decrease, but the possibility of scarcity is imminent considering the world’s growing population and dietary needs.
Though humans can technically pollinate 5-10 trees a day by hand, bees are more effective. Some species such as mason bees can pollinate up to 5,000 flowers a day! Considering how the average acre of an orchard has around 30 trees, it makes more sense to rely on nature than to solely rely on human hands.
Which Bugs Are Pollinators?
They include a wide range of animals beyond insects, such as birds and bats. However, for your gardening goals, below we list the top 3 bugs that are beneficial insect pollinators:
Bees are the most beneficial insects—pollinators of the highest order and are considered to be the most effective and efficient out of them all. Covered in fine hairs which trap pollen, they can carry more pollen compared to their other insect counterparts. While the agricultural industry uses honey bees for their pollinating needs, native bee species have shown to be just as or even more efficient when it comes to pollination. Depending on the species such as the worker bee may live independently of one another or co-exist in a hive while supporting their queen.
Because butterflies collect a flower’s nectar via an extended attachment of their mouth, known as a proboscis, they collect less pollen on their wings and legs compared to bees. However, they are still a useful pollinator as butterflies can travel longer distances compared to their furry and buzzy insect counterparts. Before you start planting for butterflies, do online research to see which species are native to your area and what flowers they’re attracted to.
Beetles depend on flowers as their food source, beetles are understandably another great pollinator. Fossils have also shown that beetles are the first pollinators on Earth! with beetles playing an important role in pollination during the age of the dinosaurs. On top of this, there are also many more beetles species compared to others. It’s no surprise with their large numbers and their reliance on flowers that beetles have are on the list.
What Do Pollinating Insects Have in Common?
When it comes to pollinating, the bottom-line trait that all pollinating insects have in common is the transferal of pollen from one flower to another. Without this transferal of pollen, it’s not possible for a plant to bear fruit or to thrive and reproduce. Depending on the insect, the transferal of pollen differs as well.
For example, bees, butterflies, and moths have fine hairs on their bodies which trap pollen, enabling them to carry the pollen to another plant. Other bugs such as beetles consume parts of a flower, only to leave the pollen in their droppings when visiting another flower. In some cases, individual species have their unique way to pollinate a plant concerning their reproduction habits, such as the yucca moth and the yucca plant.
Regardless of the way an insect pollinates, the key thing to remember is their value in our natural ecosystems. Without them, there is no food, and without food, there is no sustainability in our lives.
There is also a variety of other useful insects for any eco-garden, especially “Angiosperms” flowering. The natural predator of local pests can be very important in keeping pest numbers down—depending on your region, helpful insects may include ladybugs, prayer mantises, spiders, lacewings, that prey on an assortment of bugs which may cause harm to your blooms, such as aphids and slugs.
Three Key Benefits
After all, many logistical factors go into growing a beautiful eco-garden. Attracting the right species is an important part of this puzzle as well as avoiding pests for three key reasons.
1. It Keeps You and Your Family Safe And Reduces
Pesticides may seem convenient, but they are a more detrimental, short-term solution for a long-term problem. While it sounds easy to simply spray a pesticide and remove pests, pesticides have a wide range of harmful consequences. Pesticides don’t just affect the garden creatures when you spray them. Pesticides can sink into the soil and negatively affect insect populations for years to come. Breeding and nesting areas in the soil and plant litter are especially fragile areas. Using pesticides negates all the hard work you did to attract the pollinators in the first place and can hurt the production of your garden for many years.
For example, pesticides are indiscriminate when it comes to killing, so you may end up killing good and bad insects altogether. Furthermore, that many pest insect populations are showing a growing resistance against pesticides, making some pesticides less usable in the long run. It creates a continuous and perpetual need for more chemicals since you are killing off the natural predators that keep the destructive bugs in check. Bees, bugs, birds, and bats do so much work in the garden for free and when they are not there to do it, that’s a lot more work for the gardener!
Pesticides can also harm the well-being of your herbs, flowers and produce and affect food safety. For example, after being sprayed, pesticides typically settle within the soil where they draw in important nutrients and water. This settled-in cocktail of pesticides can harm your plant beds as well as helpful burrowers. Furthermore, if you have kids who love to spend time in the yard, the chemicals in pesticides may negatively affect them as well.
If pesticides must be used, start with the least toxic and for the lowest negative impact, only spray at night since most pollinators do their foraging during the day. Never spray open blossoms and never spray when you see bees and other beneficial insects around. Consider these alternatives to pesticides first!
Overall, by using natural resources and helpful critters as integrated pest management, you can keep your pesticide use down and have a healthier eco-garden and healthier experience with your family.
2. It Supports Your Local Ecosystem & Natural Resources
As multiple studies have supported, the population of certain insect species such as the honey bee has been on a steady decline. By gearing your garden to be eco friendly as well as including native plants, you are supporting your local bee and beneficial insect population as well as saving natural resources.
By doing your part in helping native species, you are contributing to a greater effort to maintain the balance of ecosystems throughout the country.
3. You Will Save Money
Why buy pesticides when you can use what is essentially nature’s pest control? Beneficial bugs that act as natural predators don’t require extra costs to survive or prey on pests. By using natural resources, you are letting your garden serve as a natural habitat for the local wildlife while keeping your wallet fatter for the future.
What Plant Species Do Attract Beneficial Insects and Pollinators?
Depending on the season attracting pollinators is different. If you are looking for some great inspiration I have covered this specific topic in one of my previous posts titled ” The Best 17 Flowers That Attract Bees“. Seasons aside, we list the most easy-to-grow and beautiful blooms for attracting these helpful bugs:
1. Butterfly weed
Asclepias tuberosa also known as milkweed comes in a variety of oranges, yellows, and pinks, providing a vivid splash of color. Though the milkweed is most known for being the main staple of the monarch butterfly and a home for butterfly larvae, its vibrant colors are perfect for drawing in a host of pollinators. On top of this, it’s a hardy plant, and thrives in full sunlight, is drought tolerant and doesn’t require too much care—a plant perfect for gardeners of any level.
2. Bee balm
A perennial favorite is a pronged flower in the shades of purple, red, and pink. This flower is flower attractive to bees, butterflies, and even hummingbirds, so expect to see all kinds of visitors with this summertime perennial. While the plant must have rich, well-draining soil and must be watered thoroughly, its planting season is flexible. Gardeners can incorporate this lovely flower into their yard in the spring or fall.
3. Blazing star
With feathery petals on a reed-like plant, the “LIATRIS SPICATA” a hardy perennial can bring bright hues of purple, pink, and white into your garden. This plant is another drought-tolerant option to consider. Only needing soil with good drainage, you can plant this hardy summer perennial in full sun or light shade, although be sure not to over-water this prairie plant. Attracting an assortment of pollinators with its vibrant colors, this plant is also a good colorful addition for your garden when the summer heat becomes too strong for some flowers.
4. Black-eyed Susan
These cheerful-looking flowers are distinctive for their brown/black cores, and any summer garden perks up with these blooms. Black-eyed Susans prefer rich soil and consistent watering, but they can tolerate harsher conditions if needed. A trait that marks these flowers as great blooms for pollinators is their tendency to bunch together, making them easy to locate for pollinating critters.
How to Create a Bug Hotel to Attract Beneficial Visitors?
For those who want a DIY project on the side, creating a bug house is a perfect solution and not that difficult for housing beneficial bugs you can buy an Insect and Bee Hotel inexpensively as well. An insect hotel can be anything from an undisturbed area of brush in your yard, a pile of twigs and sticks, to even a wooden structure.
Bug hotels can be of significant benefit and they only cost around $19.00. Gardens need bugs and bugs need gardens. Bees, butterflies, bats, and birds all ensure the success of our gardens by being themselves, flying around, eating pesky bugs, and spreading pollen from one plant to another. If there are no pollinators, there are no flower blooms and no fruits or vegetables. If there are no beneficial bugs, there is no one to keep the destructive bug populations in check. There are many ways a gardener can make their garden more attractive to these superheroes to include adding an insect hotel.
The creation of a “pollinator paradise” benefits these creatures by giving them a safe space to live and it rewards the gardener with a bountiful harvest. It isn’t difficult to do and is very important for the continued health of our planet and the natural environment.
When Creating Your Insect House Keep These Three Pointers In Mind:
- Provide water: Butterflies especially congregate around a pool of water, whether it’s a water basin or a birdbath. Water sources provide natural resources as well as a safe space for some insect species.
- Provide individual space: Especially for some species of bees, it’s important for there to be a separate space for bee larvae. Mason bee in particular, who don’t live in a hive structure, may live close to one another but have their own independent spaces.
- Bring variety to the garden: A healthy eco-garden will only maintain its health when all the necessary natural resources are there. This includes flowers and vegetables. Be sure to add variety to your garden so pollinators have food during spring, summer, and fall.
Creating a safe, welcoming space for bugs is a simple method to increase the beauty and success of your eco-garden. Don’t forget these wonderful creatures when you are planning your space and think about introducing an insect house. Your garden will thank you!