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Pollinators 101

Our planet's food supply depends on pollinators. These creatures can range in species, from insects to birds all with unique characteristics. Think of pollinators as a team of superheroes, each type with their unique powers.

Insects

Photo taken from Unsplash

Butterflies, beetles, wasps, and even flies are all essential pollinators.



Bees are the pollinators we are all most familiar with. According to the NACCP, there are over 4000 types of bees in the United States. Some species are independent (carpenter bees, Polyester, leafcutters and cactus bees) while others are in looser colonies (honeybees, sweat bees). Interestingly enough, bees see the world with a very different perspective.


Because of their focus on pollen and flowers, they rely on vision to find flowers to land on at a distance.


Bees utilize ultraviolet light to better see and land on the flowers. They cannot see red, but see the world in blue, green and UV. So, make sure to include bright vibrant flowers in your garden to act as an ideal landing pad.


Butterflies

Photo taken from Unsplash

Some of the species in our region are Brush-footed, Gossamer-winged,Swallowtail, Parnassian, Skipper, White, Sulphur and Milkweed butterflies. They usually look for flowers that provide a good landing platform, and similarly to bees are in the market for bright vibrant colors. They require full sun plants, wind protection, open areas to bask ( like wide flat stones), and moist soil for mineral consumption.


As a contrast, beetles and flies are less popular but still important in the world of pollinating. Flies primarily pollinate small shade-blooming flowers in seasonally moist locations. Beetles



Birds

Image taken from Unsplash

Hummingbirds are primary pollinators with long beaks and tongues to draw nectar from tubular flowers.


In addition to insects, birds are vital pollinators. The term for bird pollination is known as Ornithophily. In the United States, hummingbirds are the most popular for taking care of our wildflowers. Hummingbirds must eat several times their weight in nectar everyday! To sustain their supercharged metabolisms, hummingbirds must eat once every 10 to 15 minutes and visit between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers per day. For protein, they supplement their sugary diet with small insects.


Hummingbird Care is a year-round process.


These flying friends are attracted to shrubbery and small deciduous trees due to their protective cover. They build their expandable nests on tree limbs and other small horizontal surfaces, from lichens and spider webs. Hummingbirds often perch to rest or survey their territory; some spots should be in the open and obvious for territorial birds. Native plants are always the go-to when it comes to attractants. They are bath lovers, so make sure to have a primary water source nearby. A bird bath is a great source for at-home bird watching. If you don't have a bird bath, a mister works just as well, they will even bathe in the droplets of water.


The hummingbird feeder is your best friend. Sugar water is one of the easiest foods to create. Mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water (for example, 1 cup of sugar with 4 cups of water) until the sugar is dissolved. If you don't want your sugar mixture to ferment, place the feeder in the shade. During the summer, change the feeder's water twice a week, and avoid any murky clouds in the water. In the winter, you can wrap Christmas lights around the base to keep them warm (check out our blog post on winter hummingbird care for more information).


Make sure your yard contains insect-pollinated flowers as well as hummingbird-pollinated plants. You can even hang fruit peels or overripe fruit to attract fruit flies nearby.





So, What Plants Should I be Placing in my Garden?

First, let's look at our pollinator syndrome table. This table can help you identify if there are any established pollinator plants within your yard already. Depending on what specifically you would like to attract, the color and odor can impact who's invite