Make your garden into a pollinator paradise

By Rosanne Loparco
Posted 6/9/19

Pollinators need you and you need them. Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of our …

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Make your garden into a pollinator paradise

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Pollinators need you and you need them.

Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of our food.

The week of June 17-23 has been designated as National Pollinator Week by the Pollinator Partnership, an organization devoted to promoting the health of pollinators through conservation, education and research.

You can do your part by making your garden pollinator friendly.

Many different pollinators

About 75 percent of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, and over 200,000 species of animals’ act as pollinators of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths.

Some of these pollinators are generalists; they visit many different plants.

Others are specialists, concentrating on one plant.

All insect pollinators go through complete metamorphosis: egg, larva (caterpillar, grub or maggot) pupa, and winged adult. It’s important to recognize what the insect looks like at each stage in order to protect them.

Honeybees are the “queens” of the bee pollinators. However, New York is home to over 450 native bee species, and they are important too.

Many people are concerned about bee stings. Most bee species don’t sting. Although female bees are physically capable of stinging, most native bee species are “solitary bees” -- they don’t sting unless they are physically threatened or injured.

Only honeybees are defensive and may chase someone who disturbs their hive. It is wise to avoid disturbing bees or insect nests. If you spot an underground nest of ground-nesting bees, mark it with a stick so that it can be avoided.

Create a pollinator friendly backyard

The choices you make in your own backyard can make a difference by providing a habitat and food source for pollinators. Like all living things, pollinators will need food, shelter, and water.

Select a sunny area in your landscape and evaluate the area for existing nest sites, nectar sources and habitat. Then add plants that will increase nectar and pollen sources.

A diverse garden habitat with many different plant varieties will attract the most pollinators. Start with 5 to 8 different plant species if possible; grouping plants together will not only create visual impact, but it will make it easier for pollinators to find them and to navigate more efficiently.

Create nesting and overwintering sites. Leave a spot such as a brush or wood pile. These areas provide good nesting locations for pollinators such as ground bees. You can also build different types of nesting boxes using untreated lumber.

Reduce pesticide use

Any pesticide, organic or synthetic, has the potential to harm pollinators.There may be times you need a pesticide. If so, be sure to choose the least toxic option and apply it in the evening when most pollinators are less active. Always read and follow pesticide labels carefully.

You don’t need a big garden space to attract pollinators. Even a balcony or patio with plants in containers will work if you pick the right plants.

For help with plant selection, visit our Cornell CCE website at cceoneida.com, or visit our Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens where we feature many different pollinator plants.

For more facts about pollinators, visit www.pollinator.org — do your part and have a happy National Pollinator Week!

For more information view our website at cceoneida.com or call our horticulture hotline on Wednesday and Friday between 9 a.m. to noon at 315-736-3394.

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