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Beyond Honeybees - Pollinator Diversity

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

When you hear the word pollinator, what's the first thing that jumps into your mind? Honeybees may be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are a large number of other pollinators out there. Honeybees do help and contribute to pollination, but they are a native to Europe. In the United States, we have over 3,500 native bees that help to pollinate all sorts of plants. Did you realize that your squash plants are pollinated primarily by a native squash bees?

Pollinators go beyond bees and also include butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and hummingbirds. They all play an important role in the ecosystems sustainability and survival. So what can we do to help this amazing and diverse group of pollinators?

Pollinators need water, resting places, nesting areas, bare ground, shelter, and of course nectar sources. Those yards that are neatly manicured with the perfect lawn and no debris anywhere actually is not beneficial for pollinators. That stack of logs sitting there can be utilized by pollinators for shelter, that bare patch of land can be used by ground nesting bees, and that dead stump over there is perfect for wood-nesting bees. You can even build a pollinator nesting box. University of Georgia Extension has great instructions available to build your own and you can find them here - http://go.illinois.edu/UGAPollinatorNestingBox

It should also be noted that a reduction/elimination in the use of chemicals in the landscape also plays an important role in helping pollinators. There have been recent changes to the label for Imidicloprid which is a systemic insecticide that has been used on Tilia sp. (which includes Linden) to control Japanese beetles. With the understanding of how toxic it is to pollinators, and Linden being a favorite – you can no longer use this product on any Tilia sp. including Linden. I did mention this in the article I wrote two weeks ago, but thought it was important enough to mention again. Even if you have Imidicloprid left over and has the old label which lists Linden – don't use it on Linden regardless.

When it comes to nectar sources you hear a lot about what flowers to plant and how to setup pollinator pockets and gardens – annual and perennial flowers abound in lists everywhere. Just like the diversity of pollinators, there is also diversity in pollinator plants. Pollinators also utilize blooming trees and shrubs as nectar sources, not to mention the importance of pollinators for fruit and nut trees.

Here is a quick list of some pollinator friendly trees and shrubs.

  • Aesculus parviflora – Bottlebrush Buckeye
  • Aesculus pavia – Red Buckeye (these produce gorgeous red flower clusters in spring)
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Clethra alnifolia – Clethra
  • Hydrangea macrophylla & Hydrangea quercifolia ­–Lacecap Hydrangea & Oakleaf Hydrangea (the big-leafed hydrangea flowers consist mostly of modified sepals or leaves and hide the actual nectar source and make them ineffective sources for pollinators)
  • Ilex opaca – American Holly
  • Liriodendron tulipifera – Tulip Tree (this is also a larval source for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)
  • Viburnum sp. – Viburnum

There is a wealth of information available from Extensions and Universities about pollinators and research is ongoing on determining the cause of reduction in pollinator species and what we can do to help them. Every small thing we can do to help pollinators is a beneficial.



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