Planting for Pollinators

What do apples, almonds, blueberries, citrus, melons, pears, plums, pumpkins, and squash have in common? They all need pollinators.

Most gardeners are familiar with the important role that bees and other pollinators play in fertilization of plants in their garden. Pollinators transfer pollen from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant and starting the process of fruit and seed production. Good pollination results in hearty fruits with viable seeds. Pollinators are so important that growers often rent honeybee hives to ensure that they will have a successful harvest.

Unfortunately bee populations are declining. While there are many factors, it is thought that habitat loss, disease, bee parasites, and inappropriate and excessive pesticide use contribute to the loss of pollinators.

Photo by Karen Sabath, local beekeeper

Photo by Karen Sabath, local beekeeper

How Gardeners Can Help

You know how much pollinators do for your garden, now you can do something for the pollinators. In addition to eliminating use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides on your lawn and in your gardens, you can also plant for pollinators by following these tips.

CHOOSE VARIETY

  • Choose a variety of plants that will provide blooms from early spring to late fall.
  • Choose plants of various heights, colors, shapes and sizes to attract different pollinators.
  • Choose colors that bees love: blue, purple, and yellow:
    • Flat or shallow blossoms, such as daisies, zinnias, asters, Queen Anne’s lace, will attract the largest variety of bees.
    • Long-tongued bees will be attracted to plants in the mint family such as nepeta, salvia, oregano, mint and lavender.
    • Long-tongued bumblebees are attracted to flowers with hidden nectar spurs such as larkspur, monkshood, monarda, columbine and snapdragons.

CHOOSE NATIVE

  • Plant wildflowers and native species. According to the Penn State Center for Pollinator Research, bees are four times more attracted to native plants than non-native plants. Find what you are looking for at the Native Plant Sale at Rosedale Nurseries (to benefit the Native Plant Center), September 12 & 13.
  • Avoid double blooms. Modern hybrid flowers that have been modified to produce large, double blooms have less nectar and pollen than flowers with one ring of petals.
Enjoy your beautiful flowers and the pollinators in your garden!

Enjoy your beautiful flowers and the pollinators in your garden!

MAKE IT EASY FOR POLLINATORS TO THRIVE

  • Plant big patches of each plant species.
  • Include plants that feed caterpillars.
  • Create habitat by leaving dead wood, piles of dry grasses and sticks, a muddy area, or uncovered ground areas free of weed mesh or heavy mulch.
  • Consider backyard beekeeping.

DON’T KILL POLLINATORS WITH PESTICIDES AND CHEMICALS

Limit or eliminate your use of pesticides and chemicals in your yard, they will kill pollinators. Click here to take the Pledge to limit pesticide use on your property.

Queen bee in the hive, photo by Karen Sabath

Queen bee in the hive, photo by Karen Sabath

Resources and Links

Hudson Valley Natural Beekeepers is our local beekeeping group, founded by four local beekeepers and is open to anyone interested in pollinators (you don’t have to be a beekeeper!). In addition to meetings, they have a website with great information and resources.  In particular see: Hudson Valley Natural Beekeepers 10 Things to Help Bees .

This fantastic eco-regional guide produced by the Pollinator Partnership is a great resource when planning a pollinator garden in our area: Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers and Gardeners in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Oceanic Province).

Beekeeping Classes and more:

Honeybeelives.org, Chris Harp and Grai St. Clair Rice, in New Paltz

Hudson Valley Bee Supply, Kingston, NY, for classes, supplies and their local honey

Bedford Beekeeper for classes and beekeeping, DJ Haverkamp

Other resources:

Honeybee Plant List for the Northeast

Native plant database

Pollinators For Your Garden Webinar

Keep it simple: 5 Early Season Plants Which Attract Pollinators to Your Garden 

My neighbor's beehive surrounded by lovely plants for pollinators

My neighbor’s beehive surrounded by lovely plants for pollinators