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Prepare to host garden pollinators

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Planting clumps of bright, successively blooming flowers is a popular method for attracting foraging pollinators like bees and butterflies. Also knowledgeable vegetable and fruit growers know flowering edibles will entice them, too. Ornamental shrubs, trees, crops and vines will bring pollinators to your yard while at the same time provide nourishment for the family table.

Bees and many other species transfer pollen grains and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing plants so they can thrive and produce food. The pollinators, in turn, are rewarded with the plants’ sugary nectars.

When you sit down to eat a meal you can thank a pollinator, because a general rule is that for every three bites we take that food was provided by a pollinator.

Familiarize yourself with the pollinators common in your area and learn which plants they prefer.

By knowing what pollinators you have in your area you can see what plants you can have in your garden that will not only benefit you but also the pollinators. Some pollinators are seasonal and are active only in the spring or summer times. While others, such as bumblebees and honeybees, are active all season long.

Some bees are generalists, seeking pollination with whatever flower is available, while others specialize in the types of blooms they seek.

Many pollinator species are in decline or disappearing because of habitat and forage losses, improper pesticide use, and disease and parasites.

You can install pollinator-friendly habitat if you want to help rebuild the pollinator populations. Many native plants that can support the increasingly endangered Monarch butterfly population also will help native bees.

Remember when you are planning your landscape for a pollinator bed it’s important to have flower diversity not abundance.

Other typical pairings of edible plants and pollinators include:

• Squash, pumpkins, melons — squash bees, carpenter bees.

• Lowbush blueberries, blackberries and raspberries — bumblebees, sweat bees, mining bees, digger bees, mason bees.

• Tomatoes — bumblebees, sweat bees, carpenter bees.

• Thyme — bumblebees, honeybees, digger bees, mason bees, sweat bees, yellow-faced bees.

Pollinators other than bees include hummingbirds, moths, flies, ants, hornets and beetles. Many of these are inadvertent pollinators.

These animals will visit flowers to feed on their resources such as oils, nectar, pollen or petals and in doing so can pollinate the flower.

Shaniqua Davis is the county extension agent for agriculture and natural resources for Wood County. Her email address is Shaniqua.davis@ag.tamu.edu

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