How do you feel about bees? Love them? Hate them? Think they’re only good for honey? We wouldn’t have many of our fruits or veggies without the service of bees. While some crops are self-pollinating, most need the help of a pollinator – the agent that moves pollen from a male flower to a female flower resulting in fertilization and ultimately, fruit.
Birds, humans, even the wind are pollinators, but by far the most productive pollinators are insects. Bees are the primary source of insect pollination, but others include butterflies, lacewings, wasps, moths, and flies. Squash, cucumbers, beans, peppers, peaches, and tomatoes require these guys to produce fruit. Now you can see why I say insecticide is an absolute last resort, as it does not distinguish between beneficial and pest. I don’t know about you, but I want as many tomatoes as I can get!
The way to attract pollinators is to plant what they like. This means plenty of plants with nectar and pollen. A few native options to attract bees include:
To attract other pollinators, including butterflies consider:
Both lists are comprised of native plants which grow well in our area. Personally, I’m working to add many more varieties of plants in my garden to encourage pollinators. If you are allergic to bees, I would highly suggest keeping an epi-pen handy when you are working in the garden, whether you are trying to attract pollinators or not. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t allergic but are afraid of bee stings, take heart. They aren’t any more interested in stinging you than you are interested in smashing them with your shoe. The key is to coexist peacefully, don’t swat, flail around, or make any jerky movements and they won’t feel threat. My cucumber plants are always covered in bees, inside and around the plant and I’ve never been stung, while harvesting or otherwise. I know they are helping me, and they can tell by my slow, steady movements that I’m not there to hurt them.
Tiffany Selvey is a Master Gardener who writes about her passion for growing, cooking, and living naturally at www.20-by-20.com. When she’s not elbow deep in soil, she enjoys raising a very active son, laughing with her husband, and wrangling their five pets. Follow Tiffany’s gardening adventures on Facebook and on Twitter.