Birds and Bees
How to draw butterflies, bees, and other helpful pollinators to your garden
Pick up gardening during the pandemic? You and many others. That's why Ag Near Me, presented by Prairie View A&M University, has been putting out a series of articles to help you plan — and plant — the best garden possible.
A big part of gardening success depends on making the space welcoming to pollinators, which we learned about in the first article. Now that you know how important bees, birds, and beetles are to the success of your plants, it's time to give some thought to the vegetation and flora you're working so hard to cultivate.
To attract bees
Did you know color plays a part in drawing bees of all types to your garden? They typically favor purple, blue, white, and yellow blooms, and love small, clustered, tube-shaped flowers. Think the traditional butterfly bush, goldenrod, thistles, hibiscus, and the official Texas state flower, the bluebonnet.
Fruit and vegetables — and the flowers that bloom as part of their growth — are also a major draw, with bees swarming around berries (blackberry and strawberry especially), watermelon, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes.
To attract butterflies
There's obviously some overlap here, with the butterfly bush, goldenrod, and berries proving irresistible to most pollinators.
But milkweed is a No. 1 favorite for butterflies, along with purple cone flower, clusters of pentas, citrus trees, and garlic and onion plants. The tall blooms and vibrant colors of the latter two are ideal for attracting butterflies, and give a whimsical look to your garden.
To attract birds
For birds, it's all about color instead of scent. With a weak sense of smell, they are drawn to red and orange flowers with deep, bell-shaped blooms: hibiscus, bee balm, trumpet vine, and holly.
Mockingbirds specifically seek out fruit and seeds, so you can't go wrong with blackberry brambles and sun-warmed tomatoes.
To attract moths
Some species of moths do their pollinating at night, on the opposite schedule of butterflies, so it's no surprise that moon flower is a big draw. Honeysuckle, thistle, clover, and lilac are all favorites for moths, along with azaleas (which, thanks to their bright colors, are also attractive to the pollinators already mentioned).
In an edible garden, potatoes, tomatoes, and flowering tobacco are great for the summer and enjoy blooms in late July or August.
To attract bats
Another nocturnal worker, bats are usually found foraging over dense vegetation along river banks. To signal they're welcome in your garden, try planting blueberries to encourage their presence and pollination.
To attract beetles
Most gardeners would assume beetles are the last thing you want moving among your leaves, but they helpfully eat garden-destroying aphids while moving pollen between plants.
Milkweed is a big favorite again, along with sunflowers, roses, and any crop-like plant like alfalfa, grasses, and wildflowers. Also include pumpkin, squash, strawberries, raspberries, and watermelon to support these pollinators.
If you'd like to go more in-depth about pollinators, check out the PVAMU's extensive resources through Ag Near Me. In its final article, Ag Near Me will be sharing how to protect these valuable agents of nature.