Pollinators

Pollinators are the building blocks of a balanced ecosystem Pollinators are responsible for assisting more than 80% of the world’s flowering plants to reproduce. Without them, humans and wildlife would simply not survive.

This spring many Agway customers inquired about pollinator plants. I am glad to know there is a movement or a consciousness regarding the natural health of our home we call Cape Cod. I too have been reading and taking classes for a better understanding of the choices we can make to benefit our pollinators. In the book, Bringing Nature Home—How You Can Sustain Wildlife, author Douglas Tallamy encourages us to make simple choices in our landscapes to increase biodiversity in our gardens.

Pollinators are more than the bees and butterflies that we see flying around our gardens. Insects including mosquitos, moths, wasps, ants, beetles and flies along with birds and small mammals (like bats) help to continue the food chain and health of a bio system. Pollinators are the building blocks of a balanced ecosystem.

When talking about pollinators it is always important to include natives. Pollinators and native plants go hand in hand. Many pollinators are plant specific having evolved with a plant species (specialists) while others (generalists) have evolved to pollinate several types of plants. All are equally important but it is good to know the plants that pollinators prefer. 

 

For many years I have planted butterfly gardens for children and adults alike. For a successful butterfly garden you need not only plants that have the nectar they are searching for but also larval host plants where they will produce larvae and therefore increase their populations. The latter being the most important because butterflies lay their eggs only on the plant species to which their larvae are adapted, specifically Milkweed. I plant native plant material as I would any other garden material, a good home with good soil and water until established. Many populations of butterflies are threatened by native habitat loss. Try to do everything you can to include natives in your landscape to help sustain the butterfly and insect populations adapted to our New England region.

Agway has a variety of native species available. No need to sacrifice beauty! Many native plants are just as beautiful as our ornamentals. I especially like Sweetspire—its falling white spire flowers are long lived and it’s a low maintenance shrub (as most natives are). Native shrubs are a good addition to the shrub border, not only to support our insect, butterfly and bird populations but a garden full of native plantings releases us from the constant maintenance our gardens now require. Native plants do not require fertilizer, lots of water or chemicals to control pests.

When we increase our pollinators we increase the food source for our song birds and continue to support the
plant communities throughout the meadows and wetland edge. As we make choices for our gardens remember insect diversity. Visit the native plant section at Agway and don’t forget to include your choice of a water source for all that wonderful life now in your garden!