Design yards to support, attract insects Gardening for POLLINATORS


OSU Extension master gardener volunteer


Pollinators such as bees and wasps, moths, beetles, birds, butterflies and flies move pollen from one flower of the same species to another to produce fruits and seeds.

Although some plants are pollinated by wind or self-pollinate, more than 75 percent of flowering plants require animal pollinators.

At least 58 common crop plants and many home garden plants depend on these pollinators.

Lately, there has been a lot of concern about declining numbers of some of these pollinators. These declines are most likely caused by habitat loss, pesticide poisoning, introduced diseases and pollution.

So how can we design our yards and gardens to support and attract pollinators?

Pollinators are animals, so they need the correct amount and type of food, water, shelter and space that all species need to thrive. Insect pollinators also need proper food and shelter for their eggs and larvae.

Determining specific gardening strategies to support pollinators will, to some degree, depend on the types of pollinators you want to encourage. The Pollinator Partnership offers a wonderful guide to choosing plants traits such as flower color, nectar, pollen, nectar guides, odor and flower shape to attract specific pollinators. (See Partnership for the guide.)

Plant flowers of all shapes, heights, scents and colors to attract a variety of pollinators. Plant flowers in clusters of the same type to make pollen and nectar gathering more energy efficient.

Befriend “weeds” such as dandelions that offer early food to pollinators. Choose plants, vines, trees and shrubs that will support them in all their developmental stages and throughout the growing season.

Provide water sources with sloped access that allow insects to safely approach the water without getting swamped and waterlogged. Adding twigs to a nonsloped water source is a quick fix to this problem.

Appropriate shelter is extremely important to pollinators, too. Of Ohio’s 500 species of native bees, for example, requirements for shelter will differ depending on the type of bee.

Social bees build communal hives underground in old rodent burrows. Most native bees are solitary bees who live alone as either cavity-nesters or ground-nesters.

Providing shelter for cavity-nesting bees is as simple as leaving dead plant stems and twig piles in your yard. Or you can make nesting blocks by bundling hollow reeds or bamboo together against a solid backing.

For ground-nesting bees, it is important to provide spaces in your yard that allow the bees to enter the soil. Landscape tarp and thick mulch and grass can prevent bees from penetrating the soil to nest. Leave some areas of your yard bare soil or thinly mulched with wood or pebble mulch to allow bees access.

To learn more facts about pollinators and ways to encourage them, join us for our OCVN Naturalist Series: Gardening for Pollinators by Denise Ellsworth with Ohio State University’s Department of Entomology, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Fellows Riverside Gardens, 123 McKinley Ave., Youngstown.

Call 330-533-5538 to reserve your seat for the free program. You can find out program details at

Check out pictures and details of pollinators in Ohio through the Common Bees & Wasps of Ohio: Field Guide from the ODNR Division of Wildlife at

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