A pollinator garden has a variety of plants and other habitat properties designed to attract those species which pollinate our plants. Minnesota is home to more than 400 species of native bees, and 146 species of butterflies. There are numerous other insects that are included in the pollinator group, and even hummingbirds and bats are important in pollination. There are a lot of efforts working to help pollinators, and if you have a smart phone you can help! Check out bumblebeewatch.org for a fun citizen science opportunity. Snap pictures of the bees you see in your garden, guess what species they are, and once you submit your guess, an expert will reply with your answer. In January 2017, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was the first bee introduced to the Endangered Species List, and it lives right in our own back yards. Bumble Bee Watch is a great way to help scientists know where and how many bees are still out there.
Native plants, or those plants that were not put here through human occurrence, are some of the most important plants to include when looking to create a pollinator garden. Many plants are dependent on certain insect pollination, and there are many species of bees and butterflies which require the food provided by a specific native plant. A great familiar example is the Monarch butterfly and Milkweed plants. There are many other pollinator species that rely on other native plants, and it is becoming more obvious all the time that these insects and animals need our help. I continue to add native plants to our landscape, and strive for a pesticide free environment. We also do our best to not disturb those wild, native areas on our property. I have been fortunate to find many native wild flowers thriving all around us. When I find them, they are left to exist and provide. A couple of years ago, we designated a section of our lawn as a “no mow” zone. It has been awesome to see all the wildflowers that have begun to make this space their home again. One of my favorite pollinator and native plant resources is by author and researcher Heather Holm, Pollinators of Native Plants. When you purchase her books, a donation is made to our own University of Minnesota Bee Lab. Check out this link to purchase her books, as well as find a ton of great information on site planning for pollinator gardens. https://www.pollinatorsnativeplants.com/
Our current pollinator gardens feature both non-native and native perennials and annuals such as sunflowers, Jacob’s ladder, spiderwart, cup plant, swamp milkweed, and holly hocks. There are numerous lists to help you choose plants that will work in your landscape to help feed our pollinators. It’s important to remember to plant a few varieties that will be in bloom for each part of the growing season. Early spring blooming flowers followed by the numerous summer blooms, and then again followed by our favorite fall blooming staples will provide continuous forage for those pollinators you’re hoping to attract. Consider adding a supplemental water source if you don’t have a creek or pond near your property. Butterfly puddles, and bee waters are easy to construct yourself, and they help to ensure these tiny creatures can get a drink when there might be little water available.
Check out our other gardens