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Plants for Pollinators

Pollinators are essential to our environment. Pollinators are our bees, butterflies, flies, wasps and beetles who allow for the reproduction of 85% of the worlds flowering plants. This includes almost 70% of the crop species that we eat and without with the human population would perish due to starvation. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination provide a major part of the diet of 25% of all birds and of mammals form mice to Grizzly Bears.

The bad news for humans and the world is that pollinators are in decline due to habitat loss, potent insecticides such as neonicotinoids, herbicides which kill the plants that their larva need to eat, introduced diseases, and Climate Change. Right now, 19% of our butterflies and moths are at risk of extinction. 28% of Bumble Bees are also at risk and there are several that have gone extinct. While not all, these two groups are the main groups that pollinate all flowering plants and most of our food crops.

A good example that most people are aware of are the iconic Monarch Butterfly. The Monarchs are comprised of two groups Eastern and Western. The Western group are found west of the Rocky Mountains and migrate to California to over winter. The Eastern group found east of the Rocky Mountains do a complex three stage migration to over winter in Mexico from their summer range in the north. The Monarchs in both groups have been in a slow decline now for many years. They are losing Habitat on both ends of their journeys, the Milk Weed plants that their caterpillars need to grow are being killed off by herbicides sprayed on crops and along roadsides and railroad tracks. The insects themselves are being killed by the insecticides that are sprayed on crops but drift over non-crop land.

This all can seem a bit daunting for us as individuals, but there are things we can do. Write your local, State and Federal representatives and ask them to stop the indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides. A number of pesticides, especially the neonicotinoids should be eliminated due to their high toxicity to both insects and humans. Encourage local representatives not to spray along roadsides and to encourage native plants. Mowing is a safer option for both insects and humans.

There are also things you can do in your own yard to encourage our local pollinators:

Designate a portion of your yard as a pollinator garden and plant NATIVE flowering plants. Our local pollinator insects have co-existed with our native plants for thousands of years. Their larva and caterpillars need certain native plants to be able to grow to adults. The obvious host plant is milkweed for Monarch Butterflies, but Lupines attract Sulfurs, Hairstreak, Painted Lady, and various Blues Butterflies. Stinging Nettles host Milbert’s Tortoiseshell butterflies and others. The native plants are more adapted to our environment with our wet winters and springs and our dry, droughty summers. Once your garden is established, it will use less water and need less care.

Think about making a Pollinator Garden in a portion of your lawn, you’ll have less mowing and you will turn a sterile area of your yard into living beautiful flower garden.

Don’t use herbicides and pesticides, they are generally not good for you, your children, or your pets and will certainly not be good for our butterflies and bees.

A native plant garden can be a wonderful way of getting your children outside and involved with gardening

When buying native plants or seeds, buy organic! Some seeds and plants are treated with pesticides which will kill the insects that you are hopefully trying to encourage.

Our local nurseries, now days, have a native plant section as well as a pollinator section for your garden. Butterfly and Moth caterpillars usually have specific plants that they need to grow up on. Bees are generally “generalists” and will use many flowering plants, but again local, native plants are best. Using native plants will also encourage your Nursery to stock more native plants.

Some Native Plants to look for:

Flowers Host Plant Bloom Period

Yarrow X mid-late

Giant Hyssop X mid-late

Pearly everlasting mid-late

Balsamroot early-mid

Mountain & Douglas Aster X late

Tickseed, coreopsis mid-late

Larkspur, Delphinium mid

Fleabane mid-late

California Poppy early-mid

Blanket Flower, Gaillardia mid

Lupine polyphyllus X mid

Penstemon mid

Goldenrod mid-late

Violet X early-mid

Smaller Shrubs suitable for small Areas

Red-flowering Current early

Snowberry mid-late

Low Oregon Grape early

If neighbors get involved, we can create even bigger areas of Pollinator Plants extending through the neighborhood

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