It’s National Pollinator Week in the US! Let’s all tip our hats to the superheroes of the natural world, the pollinating insects, birds and other animals who enable 75% of flowering plants to set seed and reproduce, and many of our food plants to produce their crops! We need our pollinators!
But pollinators need more than symbolic gestures to help them overcome the many obstacles to their continued survival – what they really need are areas where they won’t be sprayed out of existence and lots of flowering plants supplying nectar and pollen. They also need nesting sites nearby…
Walking through our central MA habitat gardens this weekend, I looked around to see where the pollinators were hanging out. By far the most popular pollinator plant right now is the native eastern plant Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) growing on the edge of our woods. The number and variety of tiny insects making use of these flowers is astonishing:
The frothy goatsbeard flowers (also called Bride’s Feathers) are covered with pollinators, including moths, tiny flower flies, butterflies and beetles of every shape and size. I even saw an ant crawling over the blooms, no doubt attracted to the abundant sweet nectar. I’m sure there are tiny bees and parasitic wasps in there too, but without a macro lens handy, I couldn’t quite identify everybody. Let’s just say the goatsbeard is the biggest pollinator party in town right now…
Have you added pollinator-friendly plants to your gardens? If so consider helping to spread the word about helping pollinators by installing one of these pollinator habitat signs from the Xerces Society, as part of their Bring Back the Pollinators education campaign:
You can also sign the Pollinator Protection Pledge, promising that you will:
1. Grow a variety of bee-friendly flowers that bloom from spring through frost
2. Protect and provide bee nests and caterpillar host plants
3. Avoid using pesticides, especially insecticides
4. Talk to your neighbors about the importance of pollinators and their habitat.
So this week, take some time to walk around your wildlife gardens and notice what’s attracting the pollinators out there. Share your experiences here so we can all learn about the best pollinator plants for our region. If you’re lucky enough to have a macro lens for your camera – take some pics and try to ID the insects using bugguide.net or DiscoverLife.org (or your favorite field guide). You’ll likely be amazed at what you discover…
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