Sunday, June 16, 2013

We Got Your Pollinators Here

Tomorrow kicks off Pollinator Week 2013 so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about some of the plants blooming now which support pollinators. Pollinators do come in all shapes, sizes and species – butterflies, beetles, bees, wasps, flies, even birds and bats. I think lots of people think of butterflies and bees when the subject of insect pollinators comes up, but those other guys are out there doing their share of the heavy lifting when it comes to pollinating our native plants, so think kindly of the wasps, flies and beetles too.

Hoverfly on Stokesia laevis

This hoverfly (also known as a syrphid fly) nectars on flowers, helping to pollinate as it goes. Did you know that it's larvae eat plant-sucking pests like aphids and thrips? This is definitely an insect that you'll want to attract to your garden!

What are some good plants to attract insect pollinators like the hoverfly?

There are many colorful flowers blooming right now that support insect pollinators. In fact, bright colors and showy petals are a plant's deliberate attempt to attract insects because their heavy pollen is not carried by the wind; it must be transported from flower to flower. Different plants attract different types of pollinators:

Stoke’s aster (Stokesia laevis) - butterflies, flies, bees, wasps - see picture above and research report here.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) - butterflies

Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele

St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp.) - bees and flies

Hypericum densiflorum

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - butterflies and beetles

Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis on coneflower

Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum spp.) – wasps and butterflies

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) butterfly on mountain mint

Hyssop (Agastache spp.) - bees

Agastache foeniculum with a fast moving bee!

Cup plant (Silphium spp.) - bees, butterflies, flies

Silphium perfoliatum

Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) - beetles and bees

Banded longhorn, Typocerus velutinus
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, R. triloba, R. fulgida) - bees, butterflies, flies

Here a small spider watches a sweat bee on Rudbeckia hirta

Another benefit to remember for these plants - most of them create tasty seeds for songbirds once they have been pollinated. I like plants that can do double duty when it comes to wildlife! But first, those plants need to be pollinated, so welcome these insects to your yard to complete the ecosystem.

1 comment:

  1. I am proud to say that I have all these plants in my garden with the exception of the smooth hydrangea. I found the syrphid fly larvae on my fennel this year. They have been busy eating the aphids too! Fabulous captures of all the pollinators!