Creating a Pollinator Habitat
ESTABLISHING YOUR OWN POLLINATOR MEADOW FROM SEED
BRING BACK POLLINATORS
"To boost healthy populations of both wild resident bees and managed pollinators, the single most effective action you can take is to plant native wildflower habitat.
This tangible course of action can be accomplished by anyone at any scale.
The process behind establishing a wildflower-rich pollinator planting from seed consists of five basic steps:
The steps outlined in this document are applicable to plantings that range in size from a small backyard garden up to areas around an acre."
When landscaping for pollinators, there’s a (very understandable) tendency to focus on flowers. Flowers provide essential pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and also add vibrant color and ornate beauty to our yards and parks. However, flowers, alone, aren’t enough to meet the basic needs of pollinators. In order to help insects to build and sustain successful populations in our residential and developed landscapes, we also need to provide shelter for these animals, specifically by increasing the availability and quality of their nesting and overwintering habitat.
So, where DO insects make their homes? Given the astounding diversity in insects (even within “pollinators” and other more-narrow groupings), the answer isn’t simple. That said, there are a few running themes that are useful for gardeners, landscapers and wildlife enthusiasts to know about. Most bees and solitary (i.e., non-aggressive) wasps create small nests beneath the soil, or within dead plant stems or branches. Some bees and many other insects find or build cozy cavities within tree snags or logs, with different insects settling in and moving out as the wood transforms through various stages of decay. Other insects such as butterflies, moths, fireflies, lady beetles, and ground beetles seek shelter in places that offer protection from predators and the elements, such as leaf litter and piles of rock or brush. Similarly, bumble bee nests are often found under woody plants, tall grasses, brush piles, rock piles, or hidden among vegetation.
While flowering plants provide pollinators with food, insects also require suitable shelter for nesting and overwintering. Most bees and wasps create small nests beneath the soil or within dead plant stems or cavities in wood. Other beneficial insects such as butterflies, wasps, moths, fireflies, lady beetles, and ground beetles seek shelter in places that offer protection from predators and the elements, such as leaf litter and brush piles.The More, The BetterThe primary habitat features used by pollinators and other insects for shelter include stems and branches of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers; leaf litter; undisturbed ground; bare ground; dead wood; brush piles; and rock piles. Retaining and incorporating as many of these features as possible into your landscape (rather than “cleaning” them away) will help attract and support a diversity of bees and other beneficial insects.Why Natural Is BestThe availability of nesting and overwintering habitat is one of the most important factors influencing populations of native bees and other beneficial insects. Yet, traditional landscaping practices rarely leave enough natural resources to support pollinators and other wildlife. This guide focuses on a variety of natural nesting habitat features that can be readily incorporated into most landscapes. Compared to artificial nesting options such as bee blocks and bee hotels, natural nesting habitat features often better mimic the natural nest site density of insects, and also break down naturally with time, limiting disease and parasite issues. Moreover, natural nesting features often provide multiple conservation benefits. An appropriately managed wildflower planting, for example, can provide nesting sites, pollen, and nectar for bees; host plants and overwintering habitat for butterflies; and abundant food for songbirds.