Planting a pollinator garden is a fantastic way to create a space where wildlife can flourish. It will also ensure your garden is full of vibrance and colour, awash with gorgeous scents and varied all year round. The majority of animal pollinators are insects; bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and beetles are the most common insect pollinators. In some parts of the world birds and bats are also important pollinator species.
There is usually an abundance of food for bees in spring, with many trees flowering and the hedgerows bursting with flowers. Gardens are usually full of colour at this time of year. At other times of year when forage is in short supply, gardens can play an important role in providing food for pollinators.
Honey bees like to find a single crop and exhaust it before moving on to the next source of nectar or pollen. Beekeepers with bee friendly gardens may find that their bees ignore their carefully tended beds and head straight out in search of something bigger and better. That said, there are always stray foragers that appreciate a gardener’s best efforts and remember that it is not only honey bees that will appreciate your garden.
What plants should you select at the garden centre?
Hungry pollinators need flowers that produce lots of nectar (for carbohydrates) and pollen (for protein). Some bees also use waxes and resins from flowers to build their nests. In return for the resources they receive, pollinators transfer pollen from a flower’s anthers (the male part of a plant) to another flower, where the pollen sticks to the stigma (the female part). The fertilized flower later yields fruit and seeds.
Over millenia plants, like wildflowers, shrubs and trees, have evolved to attract bees and other pollinating insects. They all provide valuable forage; trees and shrubs in particular as they provide masses of flowers in one place. Many modern cultivars are grown for their showy flowers and do not produce nectar and so they are ignored by pollinators. The best way to attract bees to your garden is to select your flowers carefully.
Do you see pollinators visiting particular plants? If you are in a garden centre, you may quickly see which flowers bees and butterflies visit most.