Planting for Pollinators

Approximately 4,000 species of bees native to the United States have been identified and cataloged so far. Some are tiny, others large. They come in a wide variety of colors and build nests in many different ways. Most do not look like or act like the stereotypical honeybee. Because they do not appear how we expect them to, many native bees go about their lives without us even realizing they exist.

Some native bees are in trouble, though, and they need us to learn to recognize them and their needs. Several native Nevada bees are in decline, and gardeners can help by planting ornamental landscapes and edible gardens with native pollinators in mind. The native Nevada bees in trouble include:

Graphic of Nevada bees by Nevada Bugs & Butterflies, www.nevadabugs.org.

These bees need enough of the appropriate flowering plants to survive. They also need places to nest. This is important to know because honeybees are not our only or even our best pollinators. And, they are not the pollinators that are in trouble, despite the many “save the bees” campaigns out there.

One way to receive seeds that may help native bees is through a “save the bees” free seed giveaway campaign. But be careful; many of these giveaway seed packets contain plants that are not native plants. Planting non-native plants can hurt the very pollinators we are trying to help. Planting non-native plants comes with another risk as well. Some of the seeds in these mass-produced seed mixes can be aggressive or invasive. Planting an aggressive or invasive species can ruin a landscape or an ecosystem and land a homeowner in hot water with government agencies.

When planting for pollinators, Nevada gardeners can check seed packet ingredients against the state’s noxious weed list. It is available online through the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Another way to get seeds that can help native pollinators is through your favorite seed company. This can be a little less risky than getting seed from a large marketing campaign because many seed companies offer regional mixes. It is still the seed-planter’s responsibility to make sure the seeds truly are appropriate for their region, however.

A great way to get seeds for plants native pollinators depend on is by purchasing them through the Xerces Society. Their mission is to protect native pollinators, and they offer regional mixes. The mixes are produced locally by independent farmers, and they are designed to provide blooms throughout the growing season.

To plant seeds for pollinators, you’ll need enough of them. You should get 20 to 30 seeds for each square foot of space you will be planting. If you are planting a large area, it may be more helpful to think in pounds instead of in seeds. Depending on the region and species, 1/4 to 1/3 pound of seed is required for each 1,000 feet. A 1/2 acre parcel could take 3-5 pounds of seeds to plant, and a 1 acre space could require up to 10 pounds of seed.

To succeed in planting large areas of wildflowers for native pollinators, careful and thorough site preparation and one to two years of follow-up effort with a focus on perennial weed management is required.

To learn more about planting for pollinators, contact your local Cooperative Extension office or visit the Xerces Society website.

 

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