Why Are Pollinators Important?
According to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, roughly 35% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. That means you can thank a pollinator for about one of every three bites of food you eat! Insects account for 80% of animal life on Earth, but both the number and diversity of insects are declining around the globe due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. You can help by planting a pollinator garden and increasing useable habitat for insects!
What Kind of Plants Should I Use?
Start by filling your garden with Florida-friendly plants that pollinators love. Some options include: coral honeysuckle, marigolds, sunflowers, and much more! You can view a complete list of Florida pollinator plants here. Try to use a variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall, and place them in clumps rather than single plants.
What Else Can I Add To My Pollinator Garden?
A Pollinator Hotel
A pollinator garden is likely to attract solitary bees who need a place to nest, so consider building a pollinator hotel. This can be as simple as a piece of wood with holes drilled into it, or a bundle of hollow bamboo sticks. Adding a roof to protect from the elements and colorful paint to aid with navigation can also be a great help to the insects.
Larvae Host Plants
In addition to plants for pollination, add host plants for butterfly larvae to feed on in your garden. Many caterpillars can only feed on 1 or 2 specific host plants, such as monarchs who only eat milkweed or black swallowtails who depend on parsley. Providing plants for both adult and larvae butterflies will allow your pollinator garden to continue on for generations.
Butterflies need resources other than nectar to survive, so consider putting out slices of overripe bananas or other fruits in your garden. You can also add a sponge soaked in lightly salted water to provide the broader range of nutrients that insects need.
Keep In Mind
Try to avoid using pesticides in your garden as much as you can. If you do use them, only spray at night when plants aren’t flowering and bees aren’t active. Always read labels carefully and seek out the least toxic material possible. Many pesticides can negatively affect all of the insects in your garden instead of specifically targeting pests. As the number of beneficial insects in your garden increases, they will naturally help reduce the number of unwanted pests.
As with any other garden, remember to keep up with regular watering, weeding, and general maintenance. Also, try to limit outdoor lighting near your garden since insects are often attracted to and killed by light fixtures. By following these tips you can create a welcoming habitat for pollinator insects and help their population recover!
Information from UF IFAS Gardening Solutions