Ruth WalkerComment

Supporting Our Pollinators

Ruth WalkerComment
Supporting Our Pollinators

I really appreciate our monthly meetings of the local master gardeners. They do a great job of programming and this month was no different. One of this month’s featured speakers was Michigan State University Extension Master Gardener Coordinator, Dr. Nate Walton. Nate, who is an entomologist by training, provided all of us with great information about types of pollinators and how to support them.

Let me share some of the information I took note of to use as I continue to add pollinator plants to my garden. I didn’t get it all down as there was so much and I was writing as fast as I could. But here are some highlights:

  • Types of pollinators: bees, butterflies, birds, bats and — yes this is one more that most of us don’t think of — humans.

  • Pollen = protein and nectar = carbs. Protein leads to more pollinators and nectar gives pollinators more energy.

  • If you must use chemicals, READ THE LABEL. Try to avoid using any chemicals on flowers. If you must use a chemical, do it late in the day and prune off the flowers so as not to attract pollinators to a plant with a potential harmful chemical. If you use systemics, do so after bloom and avoid broad spectrum treatments.

Other key information:

  • Pollinators in Michigan include butterflies and moths, bees, flies and beetles.

  • How do you tell bees and wasps apart? Bees are furry and collect pollen on their legs and abdomen. Wasps are not furry and their wings fold lengthwise. They’re not designed to collect pollen.

  • There are 12-13 types of native bumble bees in Michigan where they’re extremely important as a crop pollinator.

  • Honey bees, which are not native, survive the winter on honey.

Nate also talked about solitary bees or wasps which accounts for a large number of pollinators, the Squash Bee Citizen Science Project, bee hotels and how to attract cavity nesting bees.

To be a great supporter of pollinators I know that I need to learn more about bees including their nesting habits (soil nesters and cavity nesters) as well as specific types of bees like Squash Bees, Long-horned Bees, Mining Bees, Sweat Bees, Cavity Nesters, Carpenter Bees, Mason Bees, Leaf Cutter Bees, Wool Carder Bees and Masked Bees. I did learn that bees need available clean food and water and shelter and that some prefer bare ground so it’s good to leave a patch of dirt that’s open somewhere in your landscape.

To learn more check out the Michigan Pollinator Initiative, which has info for beekeepers, growers, about pollinator planting and native bees and also offers a pollinator champions online course. I plan to take that course and keep planting species that support pollinators.

As I work on the garden I have — improving it for pollinators — and as I plan my native garden in a space I’m cleaning up this year for next year’s planting, I’m regularly referring to the Xereces Society Guide “Attracting Native Pollinators” , the book I’ve featured below. It’s a great guide and right now I’m really appreciating Part 4, Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape. It offers sample plans for simple gardens, for farmers, residential gardens, roadside plantings, schools, offices, zoos and botanical gardens. (More about that in a future post.) Check it out and if you’re interested in the book there’s a “Buy Now” button you can use to purchase it.

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