Assisting Pollinators

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Pollinators are very important. They are crucial to the production of most fruits, nuts and berries. Pollinators work with sunlight, water and soil to help produce over 75% of the world’s flowering plants. It is calculated that the U. S. has 150 different food crops that depend on pollinators.

Blueberries, apples, oranges, squash, tomatoes and almonds depend on the transfer of pollen from the male part of a flower to the female. There are many different pollinators including 1,500 species of vertebrates that share the work with the most common pollinators: insects.

Good pollinators travel quickly as they move from one flower to another transferring pollen that gets caught in their hairs, scales or feathers. Hummingbirds are attracted to scarlet, orange, red and sometimes white tubular shaped flowers with no distinctive odors. Bats are attracted to dull white, green or purple flowers that have strong odors at night. Bees seem to prefer bright white, yellow or blue flowers that have ultraviolet patterns and pleasant odors. Flies can often be found on dark brown or purple flowers with bad odors. Butterflies prefer bright red and purple flowers that have a faint odor. The majority of moths fly at night and can be found on pale red, purple, pink or white flowers with strong and sweet scent. Beetles are often found on white or green flowers with odors that can range from difficult to detect to strongly fruity or foul.

Providing clumps of native flowering plants in your garden can attract a variety of pollinators. Flowers provide pollinators with nectar and pollen. Fermenting fallen fruits can also provide the food needed for bees, beetles and butterflies. Some pollinators like butterflies require specific food for their young. Remember the different seasons when choosing vegetation and the many different pollinator species. Be extremely cautious with the use of chemicals on or around plants.

Water and shelter are essential to pollinators. Locations are needed for nesting, roosting and providing protection from severe weather conditions. Consider changes in the landscape like including different canopy layers, allowing leaf litter to accumulate, or providing areas of bare soil for ground nesting insects.

Join with those who are working to assist the pollinators by making some changes in your landscape. Recommendations for selecting plants for pollinators can be found at:

Written By

Photo of Peg GodwinPeg GodwinExtension Agent, Agriculture - Horticulture (252) 527-2191 peg_godwin@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina
Posted on Jun 30, 2017
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