Pollinators: What’s the buzz?

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Pollinators: What’s the buzz?

Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat! Pollinators—butterflies, bees, and moths—also help repopulate plants and add diversity to the environment, making an ecosystem more resilient. Unfortunately, pollinators are in decline. Gardeners are crucial to helping reverse this trend. The simple action of sowing seeds is powerful. It can create habitats that protect and feed pollinators, strengthening their population.

4 “P”s of Pollinator-Friendly Gardening

Plant flowers: Provide food for pollinators by sowing flowers, especially native varieties.
Plant diversity: Plant a diversity of bloom times, colors, and heights. By staggering bloom times, you provide a reason for pollinators to call your garden home throughout the growing season. Some pollinators are very small and need very small, open flowers in order to access the pollen or nectar. Sow a diversity of flower shapes and sizes, usually simpler (vs. double petal) varieties of flowers work for more species.
Provide water: In your water feature, create small islands with stones where pollinators can land, and climb in and out.
Pass on pesticides: Look for organic ways to block pests, disrupt their life cycle, and invite their predators. Integrated Pest Management (IMP) techniques utilize simpler solutions, such as using a fabric row cover to block pests. Sowing varieties like alyssum or allowing dill to flower, both attract beneficial and predatory insects.

Help Monarch Butterflies

In particular, Monarch butterfly populations have dropped by 90% in recent years. Researchers believe the decline is due to several key factors: milkweed plants are more scarce (a crucial food source for monarch caterpillars), habitat loss including nectar plants for adults, and pesticide use. Monarch butterflies travel an average of 3,000 miles during their annual migration—that takes a lot of energy!

You can increase their habitats by sowing diverse plants that flower specifically during migration. Be sure to include milkweed. Milkweed is the only food plant for monarch caterpillars. Adding native flowering plants will generally provide the highest quality nectar and will the easiest for you to care grow. . Perennials can take a year to flower, unless started indoors very early (10 to 12 weeks before your average last spring frost) and 3 to 5 years to achieve their full size, so integrating some annuals into the mix will provide nectar in the meantime. Deadheading (removing spent blooms) can extend the flowering period of many plants.

Which milkweed is best for my region?
Botanical Interests offers four milkweed varieties: Butterfly Milkweed, Irresistable Blend, Showy, and Common. Check the maps below to find which variety is native to your region.

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