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June is National Pollinators Month. To honor this special month, it’s a great time to highlight some of the other insects that pollinate flowers. Honeybees and butterflies seem to get all the press, but there are other pollinators also doing important work.
Yep, the same insects that annoy us by flying around that newly sliced watermelon sitting on the patio table are also fairly efficient pollinators. Hoverflies are particularly beneficial. The adults are good pollinators, but even better, their larvae eat aphids. Flowers that attract hoverflies include oregano, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons, lemon balms, mints, feverfew, and lavender, among others. An interesting side note: a tiny fly called a midge is responsible for pollinating the flowers of the cacao tree—no-fly; no chocolate!
We tend to think of butterflies, but we forget about the other lepidopterans like moths. Most moths are nocturnal, but they are doing more than just fluttering around our porch lights. They do tend to prefer white or light colored flowers since these show up best after dark.
Bumblebees are good pollinators. They live in small colonies composed of a queen and her daughters. At summer’s end, they die, leaving only the mated queen. While they can sting, they almost never bother humans or animals.
We consider them pests, yet they are very good pollinators. The males, which are the ones you see hovering in mid-air, are stingless and, while females can sting, they are fairly docile and rarely do. You can discourage them from boring in your wood siding by spraying the area with a citrus oil spray. You can also find “bee houses” which are made of wood with little bamboo holes all over, giving them an alternative place to live.
This is by no means a complete list. Some flowers are pollinated by small bats; others by hummingbirds (in the Americas) or sunbirds (Africa, Asia, Australia), ants, even wasps (as a matter of fact, wild figs are pollinated by the fig wasp). Yet others are pollinated by beetles.
Maybe I should educate myself better on what the “real” bad guys in a garden look like. How many innocent insects get killed because we assume the worst, without knowing for certain? Maybe, when I see an insect on a flower, I should check to see if there is any damage before I automatically reach for a pesticide.
For tips on planting a pollinator-friendly garden, stop by the Great Big Greenhouse. We love sharing ways to encourage our pollinator friends to flourish! In return, they will help you create a beautiful awe-inspiring garden.