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Planting a Pollinator Garden

May 1, 2014

While many enjoy the  simple pleasures of a home garden with big, beautiful flowers, a growing number of people are also starting to cultivate their gardens to enjoy the small intricate happenings of the ever so busy insects around them.  Although a majority of insects go unnoticed when crawling on the soil level or hiding within the foliage of flower beds, there are a group of particular insects one would be hard pressed to miss.  These insects are the great contributors to the reproduction & fertilization of most plants, aid in our agricultural food demands, and provide natures sugar, honey.  These assemblages of insects are known as pollinators.

photo credit: Payl g. WiegmanPollinators are an essential part of any garden as they help in the fertilization of each plant. Vegetable gardeners, especially, will benefit from encouraging pollinators in the home landscape.   Common pollinators include wasps, sweat bees, bumblebees, ants, various flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, and any other insect which may be found on a flower.   In preparation for creating or adding on to your garden, it is important to offer a wide variety of plants that will be both aesthetically appealing, while being a foundation for insects to prosper.  This biodiversity in plant species leads to a variety of insects, which results in different bird species living amongst your garden feeding on different insect larvae.

For attracting butterflies and moths, gardens should contain both adult nectar plants and caterpillar host plants.  The majority of pollinators however require a flower abundant in both nectar and pollen, and not a select host plant.  For this reason it is advised to plant native plants which are four times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives.  Having flowers in a grouping is highly advantageous for attracting butterflies and other pollinators as opposed to flowers standing alone.

A few plants that are advisable to attract butterflies are Viola spp. for Fritillaries, Alcea spp. for the Painted Lady, Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) for the Spicebush swallowtail, and Milkweed for the Monarch.  All of these butterflies are native to Pennsylvania and as the saying goes, if you plant it, they will come.  Below is an extended link which lists native plants one might desire to attract all sorts of friendly butterflies and moths.  It is important to select a good mix of flowers that differ in flower shape, color, and size.  This will allow different insects to feed on nectar sources and further enhancing cross pollination.

http://www.bhwp.org/cms/files/file_ID96116.pdf

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2014 6:44 pm

    Thank you for the PDF guide of native plants. This will be very helpful in building my flower garden to attract butterflies and other insects for our daughter to examine. Also, good note about planting in clumps vs. singular to attract pollinators.

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  1. May: Encourage Pollinators | Porchside Gardening: For Food and Fun!

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