By David Christopher
Almost 90 % of our flowering plants require insects or other animals for pollination. Since the decline of the honeybee population, honeybees have been raised commercially and are widely used for the purpose of pollinating our farming industry. But honeybees are not just the only species in trouble. The plants around us rely on thousands of wild bee, butterfly, moth, wasps, and beetle species for cross pollination as well, and would soon die out without these valuable insects. You’ve probably noticed it- bees and butterflies that used to be common place in your gardens are not as abundant and sometimes just not there!
The improper and overuse of pesticides and climate change is widely suspected to be the top causes. But believe it or not, the removal of viable habitat areas may just as much to blame in the reduced numbers of bumblebees, monarch butterflies and general native insects important to plant reproduction. Over-curated lawns are replacing natural habitats in an effort to make our properties well groomed and easy to maintain. And unless we can replace some of these lost habitats, the decline of the bees and butterflies could continue.
So what can you do to help?
- Be much more cautious of how and when you apply pest and weed control products, and use organic products when applicable. Regardless of the type of product you’re using, always follow the label instructions and never over-apply.
- Create pollinator habitats such as butterfly or bee-friendly gardens within your landscape.
- Use native plants within your landscape since native plants attract many more pollinators over non-native.
- Grow milkweed and other butterfly and bee-friendly native wildflowers.
- Talk to your neighbors, local schools, faith groups or businesses about planting a butterfly or bee garden.
Tips for building a garden that will attract butterflies, bees, and birds:
Start by building small – you can always enlarge your garden later. Butterflies and most butterfly plants require bright sunshine, so pick a sunny area. Use native plants when possible and plant a selection of annual and perennial flowers that will provide nectar from early spring thru fall. Provide host plants that female butterflies will lay eggs on in order to provide food for their caterpillar offspring. Supply a shallow bowl with water for butterflies, birds and bees and have several flat stones placed in the garden where butterflies can bask in the sun.