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Thu, Oct. 17

Column: Attract native pollinators to your garden

Pollinators are essential to the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, essential to the entire fabric of life on the planet.

There are many kinds of pollinators; honeybees, native bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, hummingbirds and bats to name a few. The most well-known pollinator is the bee. Besides the popular honey bee, there are more than 4,000 species of native bees in North America.

Many problems face bees, especially honey bees and bumble bees. (Did you know there are 47 species of bumble bees in North America?) Disease and mites are not only to blame. The largest problem is that their habitats are being altered, especially for bumble bees. Research has shown that bumble bees are not moving northward when the temperatures rise as they usually do. At the same time, they are disappearing from southern portions of their ranges. This study of bumble bee migration continues.

Public concern and interest has increased. The U.S. Department of Transportation has been encouraged to plant pollinator habitat along highways and some rare bumble bees have been seen in parts of the country where they had disappeared, from Oregon to Ohio. North Carolina is launching a program called The Butterfly Highway, planting butterfly-friendly plants along major migration routes.

The best news of all may be that everyone can help these critical pollinators. Anywhere you have an appealing habitat, even as small as in a suburban backyard, a good diversity of native pollinators can be found.

Some ways to help are:

  • Plant flowering trees and plants to provide pollen and nectar as food for pollinators.

  • Provide nesting sites for native bees, such as Mason Bee houses, old tree snags and logs or brush piles and a water source.

  • Eliminate or decrease use of pesticides and herbicides, especially systemic insecticides containing neonicotinoids.

  • Help scientists study bees by reporting bees you see in your garden to the citizen-science project. Bumble Bee Watch. (

  • Sign up for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge! (MPGC) is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of pollinators across America. See their website for more information at

Plant a Pollinator Garden

Your garden can be a window box or container, or it can be your whole back yard! It all depends on your space and time to take care of it. Most flowering plants need at least six or more hours of sunlight each day with good soil, regular water and fertilizer for maximum flower production.

Good Pollinator Plant Choices:

Flowering trees: Cherry, Chokecherry, Crabapples, Peaches, Pears, Plums and Redbuds.

Fruiting trees of all kinds: Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Nectarine, Peach, Pear, Plum, and fruiting plants and vines: Blackberry, Blueberry, Grape, Raspberry, Strawberry, etc.

Flowering shrubs: Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Asclepias (Milkweed), Caryopteris, Oregon Grape, Photinia, Potentillas, Red Yucca, Roses, Russian Sage, Salvia Greggii, and Vitex.

Flowering vines: Honeysuckle, Trumpet Vine, and Wisteria.

Perennials: Beebalm, Blanket Flower, Columbine, Coneflower, Delphinium, Penstemon and Yarrows.

Annuals: Bachelor Buttons, Asters, Cosmos, Larkspur, Marigolds, Petunias, Salvias, Snapdragons, Zinnia.

Herbs: Basil, Borage, Coriander, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme.

Native shrubs: Acacia, Apache Plume, Rabbitbrush, Desert Willow, Sages, Sumacs, Turpentine Bush, and Yuccas.

Native perennials and annuals: Angelita Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Calif. Poppy, Chocolate Flower, Damianita, Desert Marigold, Flax, Gaura, Globemallow, Paper Flower, Sundrops, Verbena and Prairie Zinnia.

Now, get out there and plant something! All those pollinators will thank you.

Valerie Phipps is nursery manager at Mortimer Nursery in Prescott.

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