When we think of pollinators, we usually think of bees. But did you know that beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, and moths are also pollinators? As well as birds, bats, and small mammals? Unfortunately, many of these pollinator populations are in decline, and the loss of feeding and nesting habitat contributes to this decline.
International Pollinator Week is celebrated from June 20-26 this year. Read on to see how you can help native pollinators in your own backyard!
Why Use Native Plants?
With their well-adapted roots, broad species variety, and ability to thrive in your climate, native plants are a great choice for any garden. Wildflowers and other native blooms are great for native pollinators and can provide a much-needed boost to your local ecosystem by improving soil drainage and overall plant health in your landscape. When it comes to native plants, keep it varied. There are thousands of bee varieties out there, so a good mix of wildflowers and other native plants will provide a healthy environment for many types of bees (as well as birds and butterflies).
Different flowers bloom at different points throughout the year. By maintaining a good mix of native blooms that will be at their peak during different seasons, you can make sure that your garden features beautiful flowering plants all year round. Not only will this help you assist native pollinators throughout the year, but it will also keep your garden and landscaping looking beautiful during any season.
Native Trees for pollinators
Bees love native trees like oak for their spring catkins and their bark, which bees use for shelter. White oak (Quercus alba), Willow Oak (Quercus phellos), Pin Oak (Quercus palustris), and Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) are all native to most of the eastern United States. Some can grow up to 60 feet or taller in the full sun, and make excellent shade trees. Oaks are also a host plant for over 500 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars, making them one of the most impactful keystone species when it comes to supporting pollinators.
Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
While most trees pollinate by wind, the Black Cherry is one of the few native trees that need pollinators to help them bear their fruit. Bees are attracted to the delicate white flowers that bloom in late spring, and their berries attract many species of birds as well. The Black Cherry can grow up to 60 feet tall and prefers part to full sun with medium to dry soils.
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Flowering Dogwood trees attract three different mining bees through their large spring flowers, which usually begin to bloom in April. This tree is on the smaller side and prefers to grow in the full sun.
Bees love maple trees for their nectar-rich flowers, as well as their sap. Honey bees will collect the sap through holes created by birds such as woodpeckers. Additionally, the sapsucker bee can drill its own hole through the bark! Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), and Box-elder (Acer negundo) are the best species for bee populations.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Native Redbuds have small pink flowers that attract honey bees and carpenter bees in the early spring. The trees can tolerate shade, but planting them in the sun will yield more flowers, which will attract more bees.
Canadian Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Canadian Serviceberry produces nectar-rich white flowers in early spring that honey bees and mining bees adore. This smaller, multi-stemmed tree/shrub prefers full to partial sun, and it can grow up to 20 feet tall. Its summer berries are also a great source of food for local birds.
How To Help the Monarchs
A single monarch butterfly weighs less than a paperclip, but can travel up to 3,000 miles! These incredible creatures migrate through North America every fall, typically from late September to Mid-November. With the help of native plants, you can attract beautiful monarch butterflies to your property this season and for seasons to come.
Stay on the Bright Side
Monarchs can’t fly when the temperature dips below 50 degrees. They rely on the warmth of the sun to stay warm, especially during the colder days of fall. Before you begin planting, look for the areas on your property that receive the most sunlight. Keep in mind that monarchs complete two migrations a year, one in the fall and another during the spring season. Plant in areas that receive ample sunlight at all months of the year.
Plant a Variety of Natives
Monarchs are considered large butterflies and prefer flat flowers that can provide them with a sufficient landing area. Most importantly, monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves of milkweed to thrive. Milkweed is not only great for monarchs but several other species of butterflies as well. As you begin planting, consider incorporating a variety of natives into your landscape. The more flowers and plants you cultivate, the more butterflies you can expect to see in the fall and spring seasons.
As you plant, remember that butterflies are often more attracted to flowers and plants that appear in masses. Consider planting large groups of native plants to provide them with a safe, attractive place to land.
Register your event/garden
We highly recommend checking out Pollinator Partnership to see how you can participate in Pollinator Week. You can even add your pollinator activity to their map and see what others across the country are doing to celebrate pollinator week!
Check out more pollinator friendly plants to help pollinators in your own backyard.