Lawn and Garden

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden

By Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Service Roane County agriculture agent

hummingbird Pollinators play a vital role in the reproductive success of more than 75% of the world’s flowering plants. Common pollinators in West Virginia include hummingbirds, moths, bees, beetles, flies, and butterflies.

Pollination occurs when pollen grains from a flower’s male parts (anthers) are moved to the female part (stigma) of the same species and fertilization occurs, producing fruit and/or seeds. While wind and water can move pollen for some plants, most depend on pollinators to move pollen from one flower to the next.

Crops like tomatoes, peas, and beans are self-pollinating, but they still have to be shaken by the wind or bees to release the pollen inside the flowers. Other crops like the cucurbits—melons, cucumbers and squash—are entirely dependent on pollinators for fertilization because they have separate male and female flowers. Without pollination, most fruits and vegetables will not set fruit, the fruit will be incomplete or misshapen, or the yield will be low.

Selecting Pollinators

butterfly

The color, shape, odor, and amount of nectar and pollen produced by flowers account for the type of pollinators they attract. Pollinators depend on the plants’ nectar (sugar and water) and pollen (protein) as their primary food source. Gardeners can help attract pollinators by creating pollinator-friendly habitat in their own yard and garden areas.

  • Choose plants with flower blooms that vary in color, shape, and height to attract a variety of pollinators
  • Choose plants that bloom throughout the growing season, providing stable nectar and pollen sources
  • Plant flowers in clumps rather than as single plants to better attract pollinators

In addition to planting flowers that attract pollinators, you can take other steps to attract and keep pollinators in your garden, such as:

  • Have a source of fresh water.
  • Consider leaving flowering weeds along the edge of your garden or yard to serve as alternate food sources.
  • Keep small, south-facing, undisturbed, bare ground patches nearby.
  • Leave a dead tree or limb in wooded areas for nesting options.
  • Install bee nesting blocks.
  • Expect and accept a little pest activity in the yard and garden (beneficial insects need sources of food, too).
  • When pest activity becomes excessive, try removing pests by hand.
  • Limit pesticide use. If needed, apply pesticides in early morning or late evening when pollinators are least active.
  • If insecticides are necessary, use ones that are least toxic to non-pest species and do not persist on vegetation. Don’t apply them when plants are in bloom or it is windy.

View a list of pollinators