Attract Pollinators to Boost Your Yields
One third of all commercial crops require insect pollination. We all know that honey bees are important pollinators of edible plants and those that are a little more savvy will also be aware of Australia’s native stingless bees that can also do the job. What many people don’t realise though is that there are many thousands of pollinator species other than those recognizable buzzing bees! Whats more, many of these less well known pollinators are actually better at pollinating many flowers. To grow as much food as possible you need to attract pollinators of all kinds to your garden.
What is a Pollinator?Pollinators are animals that visit flowers and transfer pollen from the stamen of one flower to the stigma of another, thereby fertilizing or pollinating the flower. Plants have various systems in place to avoid self pollination (Like the A and B flower types for avocados) and so pollinators help drive plant fitness and evolution. Pollinators can be any organism that transfers pollen to successfully pollinate a plant and while bees are the most well known, the group includes among others the beetles, flies, ants, wasps, moths, butterflies, possums, birds and even bats!
Pollinators are paid or tricked for their pollination service in many ways. Many flowers produce nectar and excess pollen which the animals eat or collect while inadvertently pollinating the flower. Other plants attract pollinators with shape, fooling their pollinators in various ways. Others still attract their pollinators with smell. One notable example of this is the massive Titan Arum flower that smells of rotting flesh and is pollinated by flies.
How to Attract Pollinators
Plant FlowersNow for the simple stuff. To attract pollinators to your garden simply plant flowers. I am guessing you already knew that part but really, it is that simple. Pollinators need flowers as much as those flowers need pollinators. The good thing is that if you require the work of pollinators then you obviously already have some flowers and so are halfway there.
Plant companion flowering plants between your fruit trees and vegetables. Plant them around or even throughout your vegetable garden. Pick species that flower for as much of the year as possible and pick a range that complement each others flowering periods. You want to provide a year round smorgasbord for pollinators. They need to know that at all times, your garden is the place to be.
Build Pollinator HabitatThe pollinators are also going to want habitat within to hide and reproduce. You need to provide that. Habitat can be as simple as densely planted areas of the garden or mulch between your trees. You can go further by creating specially made insect homes and every garden should have a solitary bee or insect hotel. Also consider bat or bird nest boxes if they are welcome additions to your garden. It may look unsightly but a pile of logs or a warm compost heap create great habitat for beneficial insects and skinks.
This should go without saying but if you want healthy numbers of beneficial insects in your garden then you must refrain from using insecticides! Insecticides kill insects (obviously) and make no distinction between the scale you are trying to eliminate and the blue banded bee that has just been pollinating your tomatoes. If you must deal with a pest then seek out alternatives such as white oil that only impact the insects they are sprayed directly on. It should also be noted that many of the beneficial insects will be an ally in the fight against pests. Ladybird beetles love the taste of aphids!
If you are not trying to attract pollinators and other benificials to your garden then you are missing out. Start taking steps today and enjoy the rewards that they will bring to your gardening.