When you hear the word pollinator, what's the first thing that jumps into your mind?
Honeybees may be the first thing, but there are a large number of other pollinators. Honeybees do help and contribute to pollination, but they are native to Europe. In the United States, there are more than 3,500 native bees that help pollinate all sorts of plants.
Did you realize that your squash plants are pollinated primarily by a native squash bee?
Pollinators go beyond bees and include butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps and hummingbirds. They all play an important role in the ecosystem's 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 nectar sources. Those yards that are neatly manicured with the perfect lawn and no debris are not beneficial for pollinators. That stack of logs sitting there can be used 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 at go.illinois.edu/UGAPollinatorNestingBox.
It should 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 used on Tilia sp. (which includes linden) trees 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 an article I wrote two weeks ago but thought it was important enough to mention again. Even if you have Imidicloprid left over with the old label that lists linden, don't use it on linden trees.
When it comes to nectar sources, you hear a lot about what flowers to plant and how to set up pollinator pockets and gardens -- annual and perennial flowers abound in lists everywhere. Just like the diversity of pollinators, there also is diversity in pollinator plants.
Pollinators also use blooming trees and shrubs as nectar sources, not to mention the importance of pollinators for fruit and nut trees.
Here is a list of some trees and shrubs that attract pollinators:
º Aesculus parviflora -- Bottlebrush buckeye.
º Aesculus pavia -- Red buckeye (these produce gorgeous red flower clusters in spring).
º Cephalanthus occidentalis -- Buttonbush.
º Cercis canadensis -- Eastern redbud.
º Clethra alnifolia -- Clethra.
º Hydrangea macrophylla and hydrangea quercifolia -- Lacecap hydrangea and oakleaf hydrangea (the big-leafed hydrangea flowers consist mostly of modified sepals or leaves and hide the nectar source, making them ineffective sources for pollinators).
º Ilex opaca -- American holly.
º Liriodendron tulipifera -- Tulip tree (this is also a larval source for Eastern tiger swallowtail).
º 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 beneficial.