Haldimand Horticultural Society Virtual Seedy Saturday
Check out this great video on why you need plant milkweed and native plants for our essential pollinators!
Bees are the best documented pollinators in the natural and agricultural landscapes of the Lake Erie Lowland ecoregion. A wide range of plants in the Aster and Rose Families, blueberry crops, and tomatoes are just a few plants that benefit from bee pollinators. Most of us are familiar with the colonies of honey bees that have been the workhorses of agricultural pollination for years in Canada.
They were imported from Europe almost 400 years ago and continue to be managed for honey production and pollination services. There are over 800 species of native ground and twig nesting bees in Canada. Most of these bee species live a solitary life; a minority are social and form colonies or nest in aggregations.
Native bees visit and pollinate many crops; in many cases they are better at transferring pollen than honey bees.
Our native bees can be encouraged to do more to support agricultural endeavours if their needs for nesting habitat are met and if suitable sources of nectar, pollen, and water are provided. Bees come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, and even have tongues of different lengths. Native bees visit the widest range of flowers and crops of any pollinator group. Bumble bees (Bombus spp.) form small colonies, usually underground making use of old rodent burrows or dense thatches. They are generalists, feeding on a wide range of plant types from May to September and are important pollinators of tomatoes and blueberries. Sweat bees (family Halictidae) are medium to small-sized, slender bees that commonly nest underground. Various species are solitary while others form loose colonies, nesting side-by-side. Other common solitary bees include carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica), which nest by chewing into wood; mining bees (Andrena spp.), which nest underground and are common in the spring; leaf-cutter bees (Megachile spp.), which prefer dead trees or branches for their nest sites; and mason bees (Osmia spp.), which utilize cavities they find in stems and dead wood that they fill with mud.
Butterflies prefer open and sunny areas such as meadows and along woodland edges that provide bright flowers, water sources, and specific host plants for their caterpillars. Gardeners have been attracting butterflies to their gardens for some time.
To encourage butterflies place flowering plants where they have full sun and are protected from the wind. They usually look for flowers that provide a good landing platform. Butterflies need open areas (e.g., bare earth, large stones) where they can bask, and moist soil from which they wick needed minerals. Butterflies eat rotten fruit and even dung, so don’t clean up all the messes in your garden!
By providing a safe place to eat and nest, gardeners can also support the pollination role that butterflies play in the landscape. In the Lake Erie Lowland ecoregion it is common to see the Tawny-edged Skipper (Polites themistocles), the Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), the Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), and the PearlCrescent (Phyciodes tharos) butterfly.
Moths are most easily distinguished from butterflies by their antennae. Butterfly antennae are simple with a swelling at the end. Moth antennae differ from simple to featherlike, but never have a swelling at the tip. Butterfly bodies are not very hairy, while moth bodies are quite hairy and much more stout. In addition, butterflies typically are active during the day; moths at night. They are attracted to flowers that are strongly sweet smelling, open in late afternoon or night, and are typically white or pale coloured.
Hummingbirds are the primary birds that play a role in pollination in North America. Their long beaks and tongues draw nectar from tubular flowers. Pollen is carried on both their beaks and feathers. Regions closer to the tropics, with warmer climates, boast the largest number of hummingbird species and the greatest number of native plants to support their need for food. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the only common species in Ontario. Hummingbirds can see the colour red; bees cannot. Many tropical flowers, grown as annuals in the Lake Erie Lowland, along with native woodland edge plants, attract hummingbirds.
Though bat species in Canada are not pollinators, bats in the southwestern United States and Mexico play an important role in agave and cactus pollination. The head shape and long tongues of
nectar bats allows them to delve into flower blossoms and extract both pollen and nectar; pollen covers their hairy bodies and is transfer as they move from plant to plant.
It may be hard to imagine why one would want to attract flies to the garden. However, flies are one of the most diverse group of pollinators. They include colouful flower flies and hover flies (Syrphidae), active bee flies(Bombyliidae), and tiny midges that visit many plant species. Like bees, flies are hairy and can easily transport pollen from flower to flower. Flies primarily pollinate small flowers that bloom under shade and in seasonally moist habitats, but are also economically important as pollinators for a range of annual and bulbous ornamental flowers. Plants pollinated by flies include the pawpaw (Asimina triloba), skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), and members of the carrot family.
There are more than 9000 species of beetles in Canada and many of them can be found easily by looking inside flower heads. Gardeners have yet to intentionally draw beetles to their gardens, possibly because beetle watching isn’t as inspiring as butterfly or bird watching. Yet beetles do play a role in pollination. Some have a bad reputation because they can leave a mess behind, damaging plant parts as they eat pollen. Beetle pollinated plants tend to be large, strong scented flowers and have the anthers and stigma exposed. Beetles are known to pollinate magnolia, paw paws, and yellow pond lilies.