Pollinators are insects or other invertebrates/small mammals that move pollen from the male components of a flower to the female components, thus resulting in the plant becoming fertilized. Only fertilized plants can produce fruit or seeds. Bees are the most prevalent of pollinators, but birds, wasps, moths, butterflies, flies, and bats also serve in this capacity.
In many instances, pollinators, more specifically bees, are seen as nuisances or even harmful. As it turns out, pollinators are extremely vital in maintaining a thriving ecosystem. A wide variety of flowering plants, including the fruits and vegetables most commonly found in our gardens, rely on pollinators for effective pollination and reproduction. According to research listed on pollinator.org, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you consume.
Sadly, because of disease, invasive species, pesticides, loss of habitat, and other circumstances, many pollinator species are now “listed species”, meaning there is evidence that they are disappearing from their natural areas and habitats. If these current trends continue, they may become extinct.
One way to increase the number of pollinators is to grow plants and flowers that provide habitat and nutrition for them. Below are a few flowers or plants (by common name) that you can include in your plot or garden that will help support pollinators (These are native to Kentucky/Appalachia):
Here are a few other tips and tricks to keep the pollinators in your neck of the woods thriving:
- Whenever possible, choose native plants. Native plants= native pollinators.
- Plant several different varieties (other than the ones listed above) in different colors and sizes to attract varied species of pollinators.
- Limit pesticide use. Many pesticides, commercial and organic, are extremely harmful to pollinators, mostly bees. If you must use them, use the lowest concentration possible and when flowers are not in bloom. Source.
- Create homemade natural habitats or nests for pollinators. The Xerces Society , a nonprofit dedicated to pollinator and insect conservation, has several resources on building such habitats. You can also read this Grow Appalachia blog on building a bee nest box.
- If you have a garden and you’re incorporating soil-building practices into your plot rotations (which you should be!), consider planting some cover crops that are pollinator-friendly. The featured image in this post is from the Grow Appalachia research garden- the bees are loving the crimson clover! Not only will you be building healthy pollinator ecosystems, you’ll be building healthier soil also- win win!
- Buy locally-produced honey and fruits and vegetables as often as possible.
And finally, to bring awareness to a local pollinator population right in our neck of the woods: Berea College, with the help of its First Lady, has on its campus a monarch way station, with wildflowers and milkweed plants for monarchs to lay their eggs and receive nectar and pollen. 40 milkweed plants were also distributed to community members in an efforts to keep migrating monarch populations local.
- Pollinator.org: A comprehensive website on pollinators, how you can help, regional planting guides, and an extensive library of resources.
- Planting Guides for the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Oceanic Region (includes eastern KY, OH, TN, and western WV); Eastern Broadleaf Forest Continental Region (includes central and western KY, eastern and northern Ohio, central and western TN); and Central Appalachian Region (includes eastern and northern WV, western VA, and western NC).
- Native Plants and Wildlife from the Appalachian Center for Agroforestry.
- “A Happy Buzz for Earth Day”: A Grow Appalachia blog about bees, the importance of supporting them, and making “seed balls”.
- Milkweed Seed Finder: Milkweed is very beneficial to monarch butterflies: it provides them with nectar, and also makes suitable grounds for caterpillar growth and egg-laying. As mentioned earlier, be sure to plant native species.
- “More Than Just Flowers”: A Grow Appalachia blog listing beneficial flowers for butterflies. Many are native to Kentucky.
- National Pollinator Week is June 20-26!
- Attracting Pollinators: Beautiful illustrations!
- The Farm Bill from the NRCS is a series of conservation programs that are beneficial to both agricultural producers and the environment. Pollinators are included in this bill. For more information, view their pollinator page. For more about the Farm Bill, view the Farm Bill website.
- “Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds”: A shorter list of plants, from the Kentucky Native Plant Society.
What are you doing for the bees, butterflies, and buzzing or flying creatures in your area? Let us know through our social media pages, or email us!