Pollinators, such as bees, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds and moths, are as much a part of my garden scenery as the plants. The beauty is that in the Gulf Coast region you can see populations of them year-round. Flowering plants attract pollinators, as well as provide nectar and pollen for these important beneficial inhabitants. Their job is to collect and transport pollen to reproduce edibles and flowers.
A diverse mixture of flowers, ornamentals, shrubs and trees create the habitat necessary to attract and provide food, shelter, water and nesting sites for beneficial pollinators.
Along with nectar sources for butterflies you'd like to attract, you'll need to consider selecting host plants each specific butterfly larvae will eat when their eggs hatch. I'm growing passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) to attract zebra longwing (Heliconius charitonia) butterflies. I fully expect that as their caterpillars feed, they will remove all the foliage. Passionfruit plants in my garden provide food for the butterflies.
Pollinators are more prevalent in a garden not treated with pesticides. Walking around among the flying critters in my garden and hearing their buzzing song is as rewarding as any other component in growing a productive garden.
It might be difficult to imagine creating a productive garden in the Gulf Coast region without pesticides and insecticides. But several years ago I decided to avoid them altogether. With each passing season it seems the variety of pollinators and beneficial insects increases. Allowing the environment to balance naturally results in fewer insect problems and lower maintenance.
Due to their open formation, flowers in the aster family particularly attract small pollinators with short tongues. Blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella) appeals to a wide range of small bees and flies. I let it reseed in the butterfly and edible gardens to be certain there is plenty of nectar for my flying friends.
During especially dry seasons bees use birdbaths as water sources. Place some rocks above water level to give them places to land and safely drink.
What are the favorite pollinators in your garden?
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