Today was a very happy day in my garden because I saw honeybees among the other pollinators. I had not seen honeybees in my garden since last summer. Their population has become so reduced and so endangered that now it is an event to see them.
My gardens are “Penn State Extension Master Gardener Certified Pollinator Friendly” and as a result of my gardening practices, I have a host of other pollinators. Among them are several types of bumblebees, mason bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, hummingbirds, ants and even beetles. A pollinator is defined as an agent that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female flower stigma to accomplish fertilization leading to seed production.
Pollinator friendly gardens provide needed food and habitat. Anyone can implement the garden-ing practices needed to certify as “Pollinator Friendly.” Information in this article comes from the Penn State Extension website http://www.psu.edu/ where by entering “pollinator certification” in the search box, you will find the practices and requirements for sustaining and promoting pollina-tors plus the procedure to become a certified garden.
A pollinator friendly garden strives to provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall. This is accomplished by planting a variety of preferably native trees and shrubs plus peren-nials and annuals having a variety of flower shapes and sizes.
▪ Choose a variety of colors to attract a diversity of pollinators.
▪ Plant in groups or drifts to make the flowers easily visible to pollinators.
▪ Avoid modern hybrids, especially those with “double” flowers. Hybrid plants may offer little to no pollen or nectar due to flower shape or breeding that reduces its formation.
Native plants are the heart of a pollinator friendly garden. Research shows that native plants are four times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives. Natives are well adapted to survive in a particular geographic area because they occur naturally. An added benefit is native plants usual-ly require less care and maintenance and are more resistant to disease.
Provide specific plants that are host foods for the larvae (caterpillars) of butterflies and moths. This is critical since without those host plants for the larvae, there would be no adult butterflies and moths. Many butterfly larvae feed only on one or two specific plants such as Monarch cat-erpillars that only eat milkweed species and Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars that feed main-ly on fennel, dill and parsley. Holes in the leaves of these plants mean those plants are doing their job of providing food to pollinators.
Pollinators need water for drinking and reproduction. Butterflies will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths. A garden may already have a natural water source, such as a pond or stream. If not, create a water source by adding a birdbath or a puddling area such as a low-sided container of water with small rocks. I use a large glazed flowerpot saucer for a water source for butterflies and wasps in my garden.
A good way to encourage pollinators to visit your garden is to provide nesting sites. Bumble-bees and many solitary bees nest in the ground and need open patches of soil. Dead wood provides nesting areas for a variety of other types of bees, wasps, beetles and ants. Many soli-tary bees nest in the pithy center of stems and twigs or in provided nest boxes filled with tubes.
Pollinators need protection for overwintering, so instead of cleaning up gardens in the fall, wait until late spring. Many larval pupae, such as those of the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly, overwinter in the ground below their larval host plants. Perennials and grasses left standing can provide ground pupae shelter while providing winter interest in a garden.
Many common garden insecticides, such as Sevin, are deadly to all forms of bees and wasps. Be aware that pesticides do not distinguish between pests and beneficial insects. One could even be harming beneficials that actually may be targeting the pests in your garden. If you must, use fewer or less toxic pesticides and apply them late in the day when pollinators are not pre-sent. Avoid systemic pesticides since they move throughout the entire plant, including the pol-len and nectar, making it toxic to desired beneficial pollinators.
Visit http://www.psu.edu/ and enter pollinator certification in the search box. There you will find all of this information in much more detail, and steps required to certify your garden as pollinator friendly. Complete the application and submit it along with photos or a sketch of your gardens and the modest fee for the certification. If desired, one can purchase the sign shown in the pho-to for an additional amount to proudly display in your yard after receiving certification. It lets everyone know you are supporting our valuable pollinators.