National Pollinator Month: Transform your garden into a haven for birds and butterflies
Home & Gardening

National Pollinator Month: Transform your garden into a haven for birds and butterflies


Stock image | Photo by Tim Speer/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — June is National Pollinator Month and it’s a great time to celebrate all the pollinators that play an important role in producing food, fiber, medicine and more that we rely on. 

Stock image of a Painted Lady Butterfly | Photo by Corey T. Burns/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

When you think of pollinators, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are likely the first that come to mind. But moths, wasps, beetles, flies bats and some other birds also help pollinate our gardens. More than 80% of all flowering plant species, including 180,000 different species and more than 1,200 crops, rely on them for pollination.

Like honeybees and Monarch butterflies, many of these pollinators are struggling and their populations dwindling due to pesticides and loss of habitat. Gardeners can make a difference by creating pollinator gardens filled with their favorite plants.

 When designing a garden select plants with different shapes, colors and bloom times. You’ll attract a wide array of pollinators and provide them with a constant supply of nectar and pollen. Include bright white, yellow, blue, and ultraviolet-colored flowers to attract the bees. Add some tubular flowers with a spur or landing pad for the butterflies. They are especially fond of purple and red blossoms.

Don’t be in a hurry to squash those beetles you find meandering over your plants. Many do not harm the plant but rather move pollen as they travel throughout your garden. These generalists visit a variety of plants, but most often can be found pollinating large strongly scented flowers like Canadian ginger, magnolia, paw paws and yellow pond lilies.

They can be annoying, but flies are also busy pollinating your flowers. They are generalists, like beetles, and tend to pollinate small flowers with shallow, funnel-like or complex trap-like flowers. You’re likely to see them on annuals, bulbs, goldenrod, skunk cabbage, paw paws and members of the carrot family.

A Monarch caterpillar on an Asclepias tuberosa plant, location and date not specified | Photo courtesy of, St. George News

It may be difficult to welcome the often dreaded and feared wasps and hornets to your garden. However, most are solitary, not all sting and some are predators or parasitoids that help manage garden pests.

Besides helping with mosquito control, bats pollinate over 500 species of night-blooming flowers around the world. They prefer those with a musty or rotten odor of mostly tropical and some varieties of desert plants.

Most of us enjoy watching hummingbirds visit our gardens and feeders. Hummingbirds are the primary bird pollinators in North America, carrying pollen on their beaks and feathers. They prefer brightly colored scarlet, orange, red and white tubular flowers. Baltimore orioles are accidental pollinators spreading pollen as they feed on flower nectar while white-winged doves pollinate and spread saguaro cactus seeds.

Be sure to include milkweed, herbs, trees, shrubs, and grasses with foliage that caterpillars and others feed upon. Use native plants including trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses whenever possible. These plants have evolved with pollinators and provide the greatest benefit. Make sure the native plants you select are suited to the growing conditions and available space.

Don’t overlook cultivated plants that also attract and support pollinators. Many have flowers or foliage that benefit a variety of pollinators. Watch for bees visiting thyme, borage, and calamint flowers; hummingbirds sipping on salvia, cuphea and verbena blossoms; and swallowtail caterpillars munching on dill, fennel and parsley leaves.

Once you create a pollinator-friendly environment, give them time to discover your pollinator paradise. It may take time, but once the word gets out, you will be enjoying lots of pollinators and the many benefits they provide. 

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