Why Bugs? With Heather Holm

Holm Native BeesHeather Holm, our team mate at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens has just published the landmark book Pollinators of Native Plants

I interviewed Heather Holm to learn what sparked her interest in bugs, especially the pollinators, and her passion for learning more about the insect pollinators of native plants.

What inspired you to become so interested in bugs, especially pollinators?

Heather Holm: Pollinators are where the plant and the animal worlds really overlap. Native plants have always been a passion, and provide so many ecosystem services, but insects are what enable so many flowering plants to reproduce and produce the seed/fruit that feed all the other wildlife in our landscapes. Once one gets a glimpse of all the insect interactions going on in even the smallest native plant garden (nectaring, pollen gathering, predation, parasitism) it is hard not to want to learn more.

What resources did you use to learn so much about bugs?

Heather Holm: I drew on my background as a horticulturalist for the plant ID and culture, then lots of careful observation and photography of insects over the past 10 years followed by identification through field guides, talking with bee researchers and sites like BugGuide.

Why are native plants so important for pollinators?

Heather Holm: Their most basic needs are met – nectar for energy and pollen for provisioning nests. These are the plants the insects evolved with, and while some insects are generalists others depend on very specific plants for both pollen or other plant resources such as resin or oil. Pollinators are essential to native plants and native plant communities because they are ensuring the production of viable, genetically diverse seed which results in robust, resilient plant communities.

Why did you want to write a book about native plants and pollinators?

Heather Holm: To share some of the discoveries I have made and to give people specific examples of how native plants and insects make up a complex diverse foundation that supports the rest of the food web. I also want the book to be a useful tool for individuals or small growers who want to plant for specific pollinators and beneficial insects. For example, you can use specific native plants to attract appropriate pollinators for the pollination of fruit or vegetable crops. The other purpose is to increase the connectedness between two academic disciplines (entomology and plant biology) that are both very advanced, but too often do not overlap.

How can we support pollinators in our gardens?

Heather Holm: It’s very simple, and starts with planting even one or two of the native plants in the book, and placing the plant in the conditions it will thrive in. For combinations of compatible plants, there are plans for entire gardens and specific pollinators in the end notes of the book. Then provide some habitat and nesting sites for insects (stems, debris, etc) and observe what is attracted. The book is targeted for a variety of audiences, whether someone is just starting to plant native plants or is a seasoned expert.

By providing information about both the cultivation of native plants and the pollinators and beneficial insects that will visit each plant, the book can be used as a long term reference as one plants a plant, observes and identifies the pollinators that visit the plant then delves farther into the biology of that particular pollinator its habitat/nesting needs.

What’s your advice for someone who is just starting out attracting native pollinators?

Heather Holm: Plant at least five types of native plants and choose ones that provide a continuous succession of flowers. Pollinators emerge at different times throughout the growing season and many have short lives as adults. This is why it is important to always have something in flower for them to forage on.

Slow down and observe the insects your new native plants attract. Try to ID them using the book or the internet. Once you start to gain an understanding of their fascinating life cycles and interactions with other insects, I guarantee you will be hooked. Each new discovery you make will open up three possibilities, so watch out!

Learn more about Heather Holm

Check out my profile: Heather Holm and  Pollinators of Native Plants

Also check out Heather Holm’s websites:

And make sure to give a like to her Facebook pages:

Don’t Miss!

Holm Pollinators of Native PlantsPollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants, by Heather Holm

This essential resource profiles over 65 perennial native plants of the Midwest, Great Lakes region, Northeast and southern Canada as well as the pollinators, beneficial insects and flower visitors the plants attract. Beautifully designed and illustrated with over 1600 photos of plants and insects, it underscores the pivotal role that native plants play in supporting pollinators and beneficial insects. Readers learn to attract and identify pollinators and beneficial insects as well as customize their landscape planting with native plants for a particular type of pollinator. The book includes information on pollination, types of pollinators and beneficial insects, pollinator habitat and conservation as well as pollinator landscape plans. This is an important book for gardeners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape restoration professionals, small fruit and vegetable growers and farmers who are interested in attracting, identifying, supporting or planting for pollinators.

Go to Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm to read my review of the book .

Carole Sevilla Brown lives in Philadelphia, PA, and she travels the country speaking about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife. Check out her new free online course Ecosystem Gardening Essentials, 15 free lessons delivered to your inbox every week.

© 2014, Carole Sevilla Brown. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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