National Pollinator Week

Pollinator

A sweat bee and orange-spotted mint moth  feeding on a Coneflower

Happy National Pollinator Week! To help celebrate, I hope to post about a pollinator each day for us to learn about and appreciate. But first a bit on pollinators in general. There are over 200,000 species of pollinators worldwide. These include such animals as bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and hummingbirds. We owe them much, as it is often said that one out of every three bites of food we enjoy are due to the direct actions of an animal pollinator. In fact, three-quarters of all plants regardless depend on animal pollinators in order to reproduce.

When thinking about planting things to benefit our pollinators who benefit us so often, it is most important to consider the use of native plants. Some studies show that native plants are four or more times more attractive to native pollinators than exotic plants. This, of course, makes perfect sense since these plants and animals evolved together, sometimes to the point that one cannot exist without the other.

Finally, something to consider is the multiple uses you get with native plants. Many exotic plants may have a pretty flower that may (or may not) provide nectar for a short time each year while blooming, but it otherwise provides little habitat for pollinators or other native wildlife. Take the Chinese Aster (Callistephus) for example. It is a pretty flower, comes in many color forms and is widely planted (and escaped and naturalized into some areas). The blooms on some varieties provide some nectar and pollen to a few pollinators for a short bloom time each year. But only two species of caterpillars have been recorded as feeding on it. It is for the most part and for most of its plant life a barren habitat for wildlife, taking the place of what might have been a much more beneficial native plant.

>> Read more at the Capital Naturalist blog.