How to Make Your Backyard a Habitat for Pollinators

Pollinators are an integral part of many aspects our daily lives: they provide food, beautiful flowers, and agricultural production. Recently, honeybees and other pollinators have been facing an increasingly threatening environmental landscape. There are steps you can take to protect pollinators on a local level, from getting on your area’s ‘NO SPRAY’ list, to making your backyard a sanctuary for these important creatures. Below is a guide on how to attract pollinators and provide them with a habitat in your backyard.

All pollinators will need shelter and water – you can provide water by filling a shallow dish with marbles (to prevent drowning and attract pollinators with bright colors) and water. Shelters can be provided in various ways: piles of leaves/compost, bird houses, artificial nesting boxes, bat boxes, decomposing logs and/or trees, trees, and blocks of wood with holes drilled in them.

Some other steps you can take to make a nice habitat for all pollinators are:

  • Plant flowers and other plants that are native to your region as care may be easier and the bees are already regionally adapted to these plants.
  • Try to stick with single flower tops as they contain more nectar and easier accessibility than their double-headed counterparts.
  • It’s helpful to plant a few different types of flowers and other plants to have more than one bloom season per year – providing honeybees and other pollinators with food for more of the year.
  • Take it easy on the fall cleanup: pollinators and many other creatures use leaves as habitats year round. Also, avoid the leaf blowers if you can!

Honeybees: Most bees feed on the nectar of flowers. They are attracted to vibrant colors and sweet smelling plants. Bees are especially attracted to Lavender and other herbs like Sage and Cilantro, as well as flowers like Poppies, Sunflowers, and Geraniums, and Calendula.

Butterflies: Like bees, Butterflies are attracted to nectar rich flowers, as this is one of their primary sources of nutrients. Some great flowers to plant for butterflies include Oregano, Sage, Lavender, Marigolds, Zinnia, Shasta Daisies, and Calendula. For caterpillars, make sure to have some Milkweed, Thistle, Willow, and Fennel. Butterflies are also attracted to muddy puddles, as this is where they get salt and other nutrients.

Moths: Moths have a similar pallet to those of butterflies. Moths, like bats, are nocturnal. Moths are particularly attracted to white and fragrant flowers, such as yucca (this makes them easier to find at night).

Bats: Bats are another important pollinator that you can welcome into your yard. Bats are nocturnal, so you probably won’t see much of them. However, bats are important not only as pollinators, but make a great natural pest management system: bats feed on mosquitos and other bugs that are in your yard as well. To attract bats, plant some flowers that bloom at night, like moonflower, four-o'clock, yucca, and evening primrose.

Birds: There are a variety of birds that can make your backyard a home! Birds, like bats, provide both pollination and an organic pest management system. Mixed seeds are a great option for birds, since the various types will attract more than one type of bird. A water feature, like a small fountain, can be helpful in attracting birds, since they may not know that water is available. Birdfeeders can also be a great way to attract and keep lots of birds in your yard. Just make sure to choose a seed that is specific to your region or yard to cater to the most birds.

Other insects: Other insects provide important pollination and food for pollinators in your yard. Some can even help with pest management. Having a variety of plants and flowers can help these populations do their part.

As with any plants and flowers, make sure the seeds & plants you purchase are not treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. It is equally important to not use neonicotinoids in your pest management plans. If you have landscapers, talk to them about the importance of avoiding application of neonics. Lastly, get on your area’s ‘NO SPRAY’ list to avoid pesticides applied by the city or county in which you live.

This article originally appeared on www.simplybee.org

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