Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Create a Beautiful World - Invite Pollinators To Your Garden


Creating a butterfly garden is more than planting beautiful flowers.  It's an opportunity to create awareness of how much pollinators affect our world and how blessed we are to have them.  Pollinators such as butterflies, moths, skippers, bees, bats, beetles, lizards, hummingbirds, and many more creatures.  The Pollinator Partnership website  informs us over 100,000 animal species act as pollinators worldwide but over 1,500 vertebrates help pollinate our plants.
Some of the important facts from the Pollinator Partnership:   
  • Pollinators provide our food include over 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated.
  • Foods that need pollination include amonds, apples, blueberries, chocolate, figs, melons, peaches, peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes.
  • In the United States, honey beees and other insects pollinate almost $20 billion worth of food a year.
The criteria to be a pollinator include being able to travel from plant to plant, having feathers, hair, or scales that will collect pollen and dispense them on other flowers as they move, and have unique mouth parts that are able to collect nectar from the flowers. 
Buckeye Butterfly
Here in Florida, we have the bats, birds, Ruby-throated hummingbird, bumble bees, leafcutter bees, honey bees, hover flies, butterflies, and various species of beetles.  We can even use the wind to pollinate our plants.
Called Pollinators Syndrome, pollinators react to different stimuli. They could look for colors - bats love white, green and purple, bees look for bright white, yellow, and blue, beetles look for white and green, birds are attracted to scarlet, orange, red, and white, butterflies see the bright red and purple, moths love pale red, pink, or white, while flies are attracted to browns and purples. 
Odors whether strong and musty, or fresh and fruity, and even rank, putrid smells are what pollinators look for in their search.  Night blooming fragrant plants attract the night creatures like moths. 
Nector and pollen can be easily reached or sometimes the pollinators have to work at it, heading straight into a tubular flower but have to back out carefully, getting the pollen all over their wings and body so that when they enter another flower it sloughs off and provides the needed pollen to help production of fruits and vegetables.
Yellow Sulfur Butterfly

To design a pollinator garden, you need to select a plant palette of colorful flowers and blooming shrubs that provide nectar and pollen.  Having host plants that act as larvae plants will allow pollinators to lay their eggs on the plants and provide a food source for the emerging caterpillars. Yes, you must allow caterpillars to eat your plants if you want butterflies.  Research the flowering season so that your garden has various larvae plant species blooming all year round.
Design with multiples plants rather than just one or two. Native plants will attract native pollinators. Provide also weather protection from rain and winds, with sturdy, evergreen shrubs and trees. Habitats that will encourage nesting and laying pollinator eggs include fallen woody debris, bare ground, flat patches of grass, and bee nesting blocks.  
Butterflies have six legs in a tripod shape so they need flat surfaces to stand on.  They love to get their nutrients from mud.  Placing a clay pot underliner with rotting fruit is a great way to attract butterfllies to your garden.

Eastern Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail love pentas.
If you don't see butterflies or other pollinators in your yard, it could be a result of pesticide use. If you are spraying your yard on a regular, routine basis, such as monthly or quarterly insecticide spraying, you are wasting your money and hurting the pollinators that should be in your yard. You need some bad bugs in your yard to attract the beneficial bugs that will naturally take care of your insect pests. If you have to apply a pesticide, apply it only as needed, according to the label, and at night, when pollinators are not active.

Monarch Butterfly on Blue Salvia
Pollinators dont always have to have fresh, clean, plant sources.  They also like dead foliage, manure, rotting fruit, and sometimes dead animals like roadkill.  Try not to be too clean in your landscape and provide decomposing plant material or rotting wood.    

Dead banana leaves are favorites of the Red Admiral Butterfly
This week, June 16 - June 22, 2014 is Pollinator Week.  It's a great time to celebrate blooming flowers, summertime, and all the benefits we receive from pollinators.  My favorite garden flowers to attract pollinators include: Pentas, butterfly weed, Chaste trees, beautyberry, firebush, spice bush, bee balm, gaillardias, Crape myrtles, passion flowers, bottlebrush, and roses.  What are your favorite butterfly or pollinator plants?
More information on pollinators