Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed)
Pollinator sites attract some of the 4,000 species of native bees in North America, as well as butterflies, other beneficial insect pollinators and hummingbirds.
More than one-third of our food supply comes from plants pollinated by bees. In recent years, colony collapse disorder has caused an annual reduction of 30%-40% of honeybee populations in the United States. To compensate, fruit and vegetable growers, farmers and honeybee enthusiasts should consider planting pollinator meadows and prairies to help with honeybee conservation. Such pollinator habitats help to increase both native bee populations and diversity by providing food and nectar when the economic crop is not in bloom.
Like the honeybee, the monarch butterfly population has experienced a dramatic decline in recent years, spurring a greater sense of urgency to restore the native habitat so crucial to them. Monarchs are dependent upon milkweed to sustain their life cycle. Loss of habitat to agricultural, commercial and residential development has played a critical role in the monarch’s plight. Here again is an opportunity for land owners, municipalities and developers to set aside appropriate plots of any size and shape for the establishment of native meadows containing milkweed and other beneficial native plants. This steady, deliberate addition of habitat holds great promise for bringing this species back to sustainable numbers.
Pycnanthemum incanum (Hoary Mountainmint) with a bumblebee
Pollinator habitats are generally composed of a variety of wildflowers and, sometimes, native grasses. A well-designed pollinator habitat will have at least two species in bloom that provide a food source for the majority of the growing season. Nesting areas are also an important consideration when developing a seed mix. Seed mixes should be formulated to suit a site’s particular environmental conditions, such as having tolerance to moist soils or shade. The best habitats for native pollinators are provided by plants native to the ecosystem from which they come.
Aster spp with a bumblebee
Pollinator habitat plantings provide benefits beyond attracting and supporting the increase of native pollinators. They provide foraging grounds for feral and domestic honeybees. Some of the plant species in these mixes may attract parasitoid and predator insect species that attack orchard pests, which helps to control populations of the pests. Pollinator habitat plantings also help to restore ecological function to the landscape by providing food (insects and seeds) used by ground nesting birds (turkey and quail) and songbirds
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed)
Ernst Conservation Seeds is the largest producer and distributor of native wildflower seeds in eastern North America. We produce wildflower seeds from Canada to Florida and work with suppliers to increase the breadth of service area that we can supply. We are cooperating with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Penn State University and the Xerces Society to develop pollinator mixes for the Farm Bill’s Pollinator Conservation Program.
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Milkweed) with bees
Pollinator sites are most often classified as upland meadows, though wetland environments also lend themselves well to many beneficial species. For establishment guidelines, please refer to the site types in this Planting Guide that best reflect your particular site.
Below are several plants that attract bees and native pollinators:
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) with a honeybee
Liatris spicata (Marsh (Dense) Blazing Star) with monarch butterfly