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Choosing Plants & Feeders to Help the Pollinators

By Larraine Roulston:

Finally, there is global recognition that we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. This includes not only the pollinating hummingbirds, bees and butterflies but also the thousands of other pollinating insects and animals.

Gardens of all sizes, whether each be a wildflower meadow or a planter with a few well-chosen species, have the potential to attract and support many pollinators. Even a patchwork of pollinator gardens in various locations is able to provide a suitable habitat to restore a healthy abundance of insects that are beneficial to the area.

Planting wildflowers that are nectar- and pollen-rich is a good beginning. Colorful blooms also will ensure that your garden will be welcoming. You can include flowering herbs as well. Plants such as fennel, dill and milkweed are plants that butterfly larvae feast upon.

Choosing to plant an organic flowerbed is more effective and less harmful than spraying with toxic chemicals. By doing so, you will not disrupt the natural ecosystem and will eliminate the risk of harming family pets or small children. If pests and diseases invade your garden, work with nature to control them. This method will provide a healthier garden and protect all the beneficial insects.

Pollinators require shelter, as they also have predators. On occasion they need to be protected from the elements, and require locations to raise their young. Providing shelter can be achieved in many ways, such as planting a shrub and leaving a pile of grass or leaves. Placing a rotting log in the garden can be attractive. Allowing a dead tree to remain will create spaces for solitary bees and butterflies. Populations of pollinators can be increased by acquiring a Mason Bee House or bat boxes, as demonstrated by the Bat-Chelor Pad.

Hanging bird feeders will attract butterflies. To offer a drink, include a water garden or a bird bath. By simply placing a small dish at ground level, you will provide the moisture they require. Set a partially submerged stone inside to provide a place to land. Muddy puddles attract butterflies, as they need the salts and nutrients within. Both residential and rural yards are suitable locations for beekeepers. With sufficient yard space, a source for water and nearby flowers, this hobby is popular with avid beekeepers.

There are many flowers, plants and trees that attract the pollinators from which to choose. The following link suggests plants from A to Z that are individually favorable to butterflies, butterfly larvae (caterpillars), hummingbirds and bees. As well, it lists suitable trees, shrubs and fruit to plant.

Edward O. Wilson from a section of his introduction to the book, The Forgotten Pollinators by Stephen L. Buchmann and Gary Paul Nabhan,writes, “The evidence is overwhelming that wild pollinators are declining around the world. Most have already experienced a shrinking of range. Some have already suffered or face the imminent risk of total extinction. Their ranks are being thinned not just by habitat reduction and other familiar agents of impoverishment, but also by the disruption of the delicate ‘biofabric’ of interactions that bind ecosystems together.”

By avoiding pesticides and sowing the seeds of the future, individuals can help the pollinators.

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Larraine writes illustrated children’s stories on composting and pollination. To view, please visit www.castlecompost.com.

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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