Habitat loss is one of the main causes of pollinator decline worldwide. While manicured lawns and sculpted hedges often appear pleasant to our eyes, landscapes dominated by human designs offer appallingly few home sites to the other wildlife living in the area.
Pollinators come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, however the vast majority are insects that occupy important roles in their ecosystems. As more natural landscapes are transformed into unnatural spaces, pollinators are becoming especially desperate when looking for places to lay their eggs and spend the winter.
It is important to work towards helping pollinators in your area have these and other important resources as our flowering plants depend on them for increased genetic diversity. Luckily for us, and for the thousands of pollinators native to the United States, there are some very easy things you can do on your property to give your neighborhood pollinators a solid place to call home.
The first steps in pollinator gardening are simple. Stop spraying pesticides unless absolutely necessary and plant an abundance of flowers that are in bloom during spring, summer and fall. Place your flowers in large groups close together instead of spread apart, as this makes your displays easier to spot. Pay attention to the plants already in bloom around your property, and plant a few flowering plants that bloom when your local area seems to need a nectar boost. Try and stick to native plants whenever possible, as these are the plants that have lived alongside our pollinators for millions of years.
Many pollinators have close relationships with specific plants. Butterflies are an excellent example, as most species prefer a few or even one plant on which to raise their young. Planting as many native trees, shrubs, and flowers wherever possible goes a long way towards giving pollinators their preferred plants. If you live in a particularly dry area, a small pollinator water dish with some stones for landing and drinking may be appreciated.
Once there are flowers in an area, pollinators from far and wide come together to feast.
After drinking their fill, many quickly move on in search of the perfect spot to call home. This varies wildly by species. Some pollinators nest in the ground, and require specific soil and moisture in a location before they settle down. Try and leave areas of sparse mulch in large garden beds in order to give these pollinators access to the dirt. Some pollinators live in dead standing trees in a forest environment, and by leaving dead trees and stumps where they stand you can soon have bustling pollinator communities. If your neighborhood frowns on this, try installing man-made housing like a native bee hotel.
Many pollinators also seek shelter from winter weather by burying themselves in piles of leaves, mulch, bark or similarly protected places. Instead of carting away yard trimmings, leave them in a pile or two to give them a second life as a pollinator hotel. Bumble bees especially appreciate robust tufts of grass in order to build their nests in the summer. Placing a few clumps towards the edges of your property is a good way to keep them out of your way yet close enough to benefit your garden.
By taking some of these steps, you will certainly notice more pollinators taking up residence in your area. The hum of your property will inspire you to restore even more habitat, and before long you may even find yourself appreciating what you once called weeds. In fact, it doesn’t take a large stretch of the imagination to see the wily and weedy growths as simply tenacious wildflowers. Before long, you’ll be raising a prized crop of golden ragwort just like me.
Brannen Basham and his wife, Jill Jacobs, operate Spriggly’s Beescaping, a business dedicated to the preservation of pollinators. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.