By Debra Knapke
Pollinators and plants: a beautiful symbiotic relationship that is usually mutually beneficial. A plant gets to propagate itself, while the pollinator gets food. We’ve always known that these relationships exist, but there are threats that are interfering with plant and pollinator interactions. Global Climate Change, habitat reduction, and pesticide use are just a few.
We can be part of the solution. Resist using pesticides in the garden and let the “good” bugs have a chance to eat the “bad” bugs. Buy more plants and create pollinator habitats in your garden.
In order to choose which plants, you need to know who you are inviting in.
Meet the pollinators:
In the June/July 2016 National Wildlife magazine it was reported that bees contribute $300 billion toward global agricultural systems. We are fortunate to have a diverse group of native bees in the Midwest. If you are interested in learning more about identification and good landscape practices for supporting our native bees, check out the resources at the Ohio State University Bee Lab website.
The non-native, but very important honeybee will benefit from the same plants and practices that you would use for our native bees. This is a case where native/non-native is a non-issue. Both native and non-native bees are essential to our well-being.
Some of the bees you see are actually flies; often called Hover flies or Syrphid flies. A bonus of this pollinator group is that the larval stage is a voracious eater of aphids.
How can you tell bees and flies apart? A quick way is to note the number of wings: bees have two pairs; flies have one pair.
Sometimes we do not give flies their due in the insect world. I would like to offer this thought: without a small tropical fly, we would not have chocolate.
This flying jewel is particularly fond of deep-throated flowers. They typically live in the Midwest from the beginning of April to the beginning of October. On their quest for nectar, they also transfer pollen between flowers.
Butterflies, Skippers and Moths
Monarchs have been the poster child for creating habitat for pollinators, but there are so many other butterflies, skippers and moths that benefit from a ready source of nectar and their required larval plants. Some pollinators are night visitors. A moon garden filled with night-blooming white and pale yellow flowered species offers food to night-flying moths.
There are other pollinators, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise. It is an introduction. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to do some research of your own.
On Friday, look for my follow-up post on pollinators’ favorite plants.