This week is National Pollinator Week (June 20-26), and to celebrate this important conservation event, we take a look at how bees and butterflies contribute to agriculture. We'll also discuss how you can attract these insect pollinators to help make the plants in your backyard into a sprawling garden.
In botany, pollination occurs when pollen from flowers is scattered across the environment and absorbed by plants or other flowers. This coarse powdery substance is what helps these plants bear seeds and fruits.
Pollination is often driven either by the wind or the movement of certain animals such as bats, birds, moths, beetles, butterflies and bees.
For many gardeners, it's important to have a healthy number of pollinators visit their gardens regularly as they help plants to produce fruits. Among those that depend on cross pollination include apples, oranges, blueberries, watermelon, cucumbers and almonds.
Of all the known primary pollinators, bees seem to be the most consistent as they tend to spread pollen to specific plants whenever they forage. This technique is called "flower constancy," and it is considered to be very beneficial since it minimizes the amount of pollen that is wasted on the wrong flower species.
Beekeepers make use of the bees' flower constancy in order to produce certain types of honey such as tupelo, Manuka, sage, or orange blossom.
Making Your Backyard Into A Pollinator-Friendly Habitat
Even if you don't plan on going into the beekeeping business, you can still benefit from having pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, come visit your backyard every once in a while. Not only do they help your plants flower and bear fruit, these insects can also help improve their overall health.
According to the U.S. Forest Service (FS), healthier plants are more adept at producing oxygen and preventing soil erosion.
Here are a few steps on how to attract more bees and butterflies to your yard:
1. Plant different plants
Make sure to choose species that typically bloom from the early part of spring to late fall. You should also choose plants that are native to you region so that they will be more accustomed to the climate, soil and types of pollinators.
If you want to attract moths and bats to your garden, you can also try planting species that bloom at night.
Arranging your plants in clumps can help pollinators find them more easily.
2. Limit your use of pesticides
Pesticides are known to be quite harmful to bees, which is why gardeners are advised not to use them in their gardens as much as possible.
If using pesticides cannot be avoided, you should choose products that are least toxic and apply them only at night when bees and other pollinators are not as active.
3. Build bee habitats
If there are any dead trees or tree limbs in your backyard, you can turn them into designated habitats where pollinating bees can nest. Just make sure that these bee habitats do not pose any safety hazards for people who might be working below them.
You can also pick a scrap of lumber and drill 3- to 5-inch deep holes into it to turn it into a "bee condo".
Find out more about National Pollinator Week by visiting The Pollinator Partnership website.
Photo: Frank Eivind Rundholt | Flickr