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Pollinator plants

Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:03 am
by imafan26
I am planning on doing a pollinator project for pollinator month in June.
I want to try to grow plants that attract pollinators. Not just bees but the other beneficial insects. I want to separate the butterfly plants from the others because it is not beneficial for me to have butterflies in the veggie garden. The butterfly plants I will set aside for the butterfly garden that is also on site.

Xerces and had lists of native plants to attract pollinators but do you have any suggestions for more general plants that have these qualities
1. Have a long bloom period
2. Provide nectar or nectar and pollen
3. Provide habitat
4. Not invasive, easy to get rid of plants in the wrong place
5 Easy to find and obtain and adaptable.

My short list
Basil in bloom
sunflower (doesn't last long but the bees love them)
corn (tassels provide pollen)
buckwheat - attracts many beneficials. Must be cut just after flowering or it reseeds
fennel long bloom period. Attracts a variety of beneficial insects. Needs to be pulled before seeds mature.
Mexican sunflower
milkweed- butterfly
butterfly bush-butterfly
cabbages-butterfly and other beneficials

I also need a list of vegetables/fruits that require pollinators to produce fruit

squash and zucchini (non-parthenocarpic varieties) (mostly squash bees, honey bees)
fig (wasp)
cacao (fly or midge)
citrus trees
nut trees
dragon fruit
vanilla orchid (melipona bee, hummingbird)
passion fruit
mango, lychee, rambutan, avocado
palm trees

anything to add to my list?

Plants that are good for beneficials but are very invasive
passion fruit vines
morning glory
cuphea (although I have not had a problem with them)

Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 3:40 am
by angiecis
I have also heard coneflower and zinnias can be very good pollinator plants. I started them this year and so far the zinnias have been vary easy to grow and I'm super excited to see them bloom. I saw some in bloom and the farmers market a week ago and they were covered with bees!!

Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:36 pm
by john gault
Last year I grew a couple broccoli plants for the first time and allowed it to flower and then go to seed. I was surprised at the long bloom time and how much the pollinators loved it and when it went to seed the birds were all over it.

This year I have over a dozen broccoli plants coming back from only two plants from last year, so I guess you can say they're invasive, but I'm letting them flower again. I can always just turn any unwanted plants into mulch, so I don't see them as super invasive. My native Spanish Needle plant is another story.... Spanish Needle: (It's a "weed" I allow to grow for pollinators, they just love that flower -- much of my yard are "weeds", I find that the pollinators love them more than cultivated plants). However, if I allow them to grow, they'll literally take over my entire garden -- they will totally drown everything else out.

Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 6:16 pm
by john gault
The bumble bees going crazy this morning on my broccoli






Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:18 pm
by imafan26
Zinnias and coneflowers are pollinator plants. Most of the composites are but the bees prefer the single and not the double varieties. Many of the vegetables in bloom attract bees and other beneficial insects but they have to be allowed to bloom. Onions, herbs (basil, oregano, mints, lavender, thyme, fennel, dill), carrots, cabbages in bloom all attract bees and other insects to their pollen and nectar.

I tried to grow coneflower but I think I am not cold enough, I have a hard time getting them to germinate. Once they are up I have been able to keep them going a while.

Carpenter bees and squash bees pollinate the large funnel shaped blooms of cucurbits and squash. Honeybees will go around these plants too for pollen but they have short tongues so they cannot reach as far as the long tongued bees and wasps.

A tiny wasp pollinates figs (ever see a fig blossom? It is inside the fruit).

Bees pollinate 35%-40% of the fruits and vegetables we eat. Honey bees have short tongues so they like small flat fragrant flowers. Carpenter bees like spikes of verbena and lavender. Squash bees live in the bare ground near the garden and like the curcurbits.
Beetles pollinate about 65% of flowers and vegetables with exposed pollen
Butterflies - like tubular flowers. Their long tongues can reach nectar the bees can't. Milkweeds, coneflower, penta, salvia, honeysuckle
Bats, moths, ants, midges, flies usually polinate flowers that have strong odors but not necessarilly pleasant ones. They pollinate flowers that bloom at night. or in dark or desert location. Carrion flower, cacti, cacao (midge).
Birds pollinate ornamentals like bromeliads, ginger, bird of paradise.

The bees like to hang around my alyssum and Jamaican oregano. They also like the cuphea. These plants are in bloom nearly year round (but are considered invasive here). There are no bumble bees here, what people call bumble bees are really carpenter bees. The carpenter bees like the blue spike flowers of lavender and verbena. They just grab on to them and bend them over.

I see a lot of bees on penta but they can only get the pollen, the tubular plant's nectar is out of reach of their short tongues and are better suited for the butterflies

Bees like lantana, but it is invasive here.

Bees also like corn pollen. There was a patch of corn in tassel in January and the bees were all over it. They are also on the basil which is allowed to bloom every day. They also like the sunflowers when I have them and the marigolds that I plant for pest control.

On the fennel I see a variety of beneficial insects from the lady bug larvae eating the aphids on the fennel to ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and flies on the fennel flowers. One year I let the carrots bloom and it attracted bees and other beneficial insects to the garden. Bees like the passion flower vines too. They will visit the squash, but it is not their first choice. Bee visits can be enhanced by planting alyssum or something they really like close to it. They do pollinate cucumber, but for me that is something I want to avoid since I usually grow parthenocarpic cucumbers and pollination makes them get fat on one end and have much larger seeds. The chayote is visited by the bees, wasps, and flies.

Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:35 pm
by john gault
imafan26 wrote:The bees like to hang around my alyssum and Jamaican oregano. They also like the cuphea. These plants are in bloom nearly year round (but are considered invasive here). There are no bumble bees here, what people call bumble bees are really carpenter bees. The carpenter bees like the blue spike flowers of lavender and verbena. They just grab on to them and bend them over.
I'm not contradicting you, but just giving my observations and that is that Alyssum does not attract bees, at least in my area; however, I'm not doubting what you claim.

I find it interesting what plants attract what pollinators; I think there are some rules that are somewhat universal, such as flowers that make it physically impossible (or at least very difficult) for a pollinator to gather from.

In my area, it seems like Alyssum only attracts wasps, but I've seen bumblebees on it, but wasps really seem to like it, a lot and not just the parasitic wasps, but all wasps. On the point of wasps being attracted to small flowers...I've noticed that in my area, in addition to Alyssum, I've seen wasps really go after the flower of the Dollar Weed ... houghts-2/ , which is a very small flower, smaller than Alyssum. See here (wasp on Alyssum):


I was talking once to someone about this topic and he said that he read something that said that one of the major factors that cause honeybees to choose a flower is the quantity of that flower, i.e. there has to be a relatively large amount of that flower. I've never read that anywhere else, but it does seem to be consistent with my observations. When I first started gardening I thought honeybees loved sunflowers, because they were all over them, but I didn't have much more in the way of flowers. As I continued gardening, I've learned to love so-called weeds and allow them into my garden. Since then I've noticed that honeybees don't really like sunflowers (at least it seems that way). They love three common weeds in my garden, the Florida Betony (Mint family) , Spiderwort and Pink Wood Sorrel

What's good about these weeds are that they flower early in the season and provide the first plentiful food source after the winter, the only other weed that blooms earlier is the chickweed, which has a very small flower. The honeybees will only go after that flower, when there is no other flower's kind of funny watching them work that little flower...I'm sure they don't like it, but they're desperate... :mrgreen:

On the issue of bumblebee, I admit I'm a little loose with that term, I generally use it to describe any large black bee that buzzes. However I understand there are different varieties, such as the carpenter....

Re: Pollinator plants

Posted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:21 pm
by imafan26
Before varoa mites invaded the honey bees were on the alyssum and cuphea everyday, twice a day. Bees are choosy though. They tend to mine a source until it is exhausted before moving on to a new one. Right now they are hovering around the honeysuckle even though the flowers are not designed for them to easily get to the nectar and they are on the Jamaican oregano most of the day. They used to hang around the penta even though they can't really reach the nectar but they could collect pollen and they liked the corn tassels for pollen too. Alyssum is more attractive to butterflies and your bees may have other sources they like better. In all the years I have grown alyssum only the bees visited them regularly not the butterflies. I never really saw butterflies much until the budleia bloomed. The carpenter bees come for the lavender blooms. The bees unfortunately like orchids and when they pollinate the flowers, the whole spray will dry up so it is not desirable.

I had been treating the roses in the front yard to control scale so, I had to cut things back so the bees are not around those plants there very much. I think they know they are being treated.

I am planning on putting more flowers in the garden in back where I don't spray them. I have wild roses there now that are not sprayed and the citrus trees. I am probably going to put more marigolds between the veggies in the garden and maybe a patch of cut flowers somewhere. The chives and veggies that are allowed to bloom also attract the bees. Many of the other plants I have are tropicals and they are not bee pollinated. Some are pollinated by wasps, flies, and moths instead.

At the herb garden, the bees were always on the African basil every day for most of the day. They are in the orchard now because the fruit trees are blooming. The carpenter bees like the spiky flowers so they still visit the vervain and lavender. tiny wasps pollinate the fig tree and the leaf cutter bees do their thing. We have Langstroth hives, carpenter bee (bamboo bundles), and a leaf cutter beehive at the garden for them. The garden covers 30 acres and our bees have a lot of food available since the garden usually has something for them all year.