Help the pollinators so they can help your plants in Western New York

bee on ironweed flower
The native ironweed has beautiful flowers that attract a wide assortment of pollinating insects. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County’s Master Gardener Program is celebrating National Pollinator month by sharing information and resources to help create a garden for your favorite pollinators.

by Shannon Rinow,

Master Gardener Coordinator, Chautauqua County

Butterflies and honeybees may come to mind when you think of pollinators, but pollinators also include wild native bees (there are 450 native species of bees in New York State), beetles, moths, bats, wasps, birds, specialized flies and other beneficial insects.

They all play an important role in pollinating plants. They have basic needs– food, a source of water, and shelter from wind and heavy rain. You do not need a large plot of land or a large garden space to create an inviting refuge for pollinators. In fact, you can start with just a couple of container pots!

There are some considerations before you head out to your local nursery. First, identify your space. You can start small and always build on later.

Take note of whether the garden site is sunny or shaded and if there is easy access to water nearby.

Whenever possible, choose native plants. They are important because they have co-evolved with native insects, birds and wildlife. It’s important to maintain that ecosystem. Native plants also have a remarkable root system, compared to non-native plants. These deep roots reduce soil erosion and water runoff and help to store carbon.

Consider your local conditions when choosing plants:

  • Do you live in a swampy area?
  • Do you have acidic or alkaline soil?
  • Is your soil type sandy, clay or loamy?
  • Do you reside in an urban, rural or suburban environment?

Here are tips on choosing plants for pollinators:

  • The best nectar flowers are fragrant, have a long season of bloom and provide a sequence of bloom throughout the season.
  • Choose plants that provide nectar and pollen for adult insects, but also include plants that feed insects at other stages of life, such as the caterpillar stage.
  • Offer flowers with a variety of shapes, such as tubular, bowl-shaped and flat-topped to appeal to a large variety of pollinators. Flowers that are flat-topped or clustered provide landing platforms and easy access to nectar.
  • Clumped or massed plantings are most effective in attracting butterflies and bees.
  • Blue, purple, white, pink, yellow, orange and red flowers may entice butterflies and other pollinators to your yard.

More resources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *