Diseases and parasites have entered the picture. And lastly,
we apply pesticides to our landscapes that are harmful to
pollinators. (In a recent study, Penn State researchers found
121 different pesticides in samples of honeybees).
But the good news is that we all can make a
dramatic difference in the future of pollinators. This year,
consider making a few changes to your gardening practices and
obtain a Pollinator Friendly Garden certification from the Penn
State Master Gardeners. It’s really quite easy. Start with
these simple steps to create pollinator friendly landscapes
around homes, farms and workplaces.
1. Provide food for pollinators:
Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring
into late fall,
as pollinators need food throughout the season. When
possible, use plants native to your region, because natives
have been found to be four times more attractive to
pollinators. Include a variety of flower shapes to attract
different kinds of pollinators. Help pollinators find them
by planting in clusters or drifts.
Avoid modern hybrid flowers, especially those with “doubled”
Often plant breeders have unwittingly left the pollen,
nectar and fragrance out of these blossoms while creating
the “perfect” blooms for us.
Include larval host plants in your landscape.
If you want colorful butterflies, grow plants that are food
for their larvae. The caterpillars WILL eat them, so place
plants where leaf damage can be tolerated.
Provide a water source
Pollinators need water for many purposes, including drinking and
reproduction. If you do not have a natural source on your
property you can easily add a bird bath. Mud puddles provide
important minerals for pollinators, including butterflies. Try
adding a quarter inch of sand to a saucer and add water until
the sand is slightly covered. A few flat stones that rise above
the water will give access to pollinators.
Attract pollinators to your property by providing nesting sites
for them. Bumblebees and many solitary bees nest in the ground
and need open patches of bare soil. Dead wood provides nesting
areas for a variety of pollinators so leave a snag or place a
log in the landscape. Pollinators also places to overwinter, so
instead of cleaning up your gardens in the fall, wait until late
spring. (Except for diseased plant materials that should be
removed and destroyed.)
Avoid planting invasive species that have
escaped cultivation and are endangering plants in our
natural areas. Invasive plants include species such as
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), burning bush
(Euonymus alatus), and autumn olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia).
Even the popular butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is
considered invasive in areas where it is reseeding along
roadsides and trails.
Reduce pesticide use. Pesticides do not
distinguish between pests and pollinators. Using fewer and
less toxic pesticides will also protect beneficial insects
such as green lacewings, ladybird beetles and others that
are your pest control allies. If you must use a pesticide,
use the least toxic material possible. Before purchasing,
read labels carefully, as many pesticides are especially
dangerous for bees. Never spray a blooming plant. And
spray after dusk when bees and other pollinators are less
When you are ready to certify, go to the Center
for Pollinator Research Website,
http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators/ and click on “ Certify Your
Pollinator Friendly Garden”. Follow the steps and then fill
out the application. Submit your application with a $10
non-refundable fee. If you qualify you will receive a numbered
certificate suitable for framing. You’ll also have the
opportunity to purchase a beautiful yard sign that will let your
friends and neighbors know that you are making a difference for
Bees in the Garden