What’s a Pollinator?

Yarrow is a great addition to the perennial garden and bees and butterflies love it.

A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds,and young plants. Some plants are self-pollinating, while others may be fertilized by pollen carried by wind or water. Still other flowers are pollinated by insects and animals, such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies and small mammals, including bats. (definition from: Pollinators; US National Parks)

The Importance of Pollinators

Pollinators are a big deal.  

Fall blooming sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ pictured here with drift roses is a pollinator draw. Bees and butterflies love it.

Many food crops require pollination. It is estimated that one in every three bites of food eaten exists because of pollinators. This food includes vegetables, fruits and seeds. Seeds is key here. Without pollinators the seed supply of many crops is disrupted. At least 75% of all flowering plants are pollinated by insects and animals, that comes to a whopping 180,000 different types of plants, 1200 of which are food crops.

There’s also this: Plants stabilize our soils, clean our air, supply oxygen and support wildlife.  Bottom line: We need our pollinators.

The Problem for Pollinators

A garden favorite, Echincacea is a butterfly and bee magnet. Leave the seed heads for the birds during winter.

So, pollinators are in trouble? Sadly, yes. Penn State Department of Entomology informs us that, historically, managed bee communities have been monitored due to their major role in food crops, which provides researchers some hard data. Since 2006 monitoring results show bee populations declining an average of 30% per year in America.

A United Nations Science report released in February of 2016 reveals that more than just bees are in danger of extinction. All pollinators are in jeopardy. The report included 127 researchers from around the world who worked together under the umbrella of the U.N. It’s hard to point to one thing in our environment that is killing the pollinators, all agree, but here are a few culprits. (For a more detailed information on what’s harming the pollinators read here and here.)

  1. Habitat loss (development)

  2. Pesticides

  3. Climate change

  4. Parasites and diseases

What Can We Do?

Agastache ‘Golden Jubliee’ a standout in the garden and among pollinators.

  1. Plant pollinator friendly plants.

  2. Diversify your plants so something is blooming spring, summer and fall.

  3. Provide clean water in a shallow basin and include small rocks for perches.

  4. Reduce or eliminate pesticide use.

  5. Put pollinator boxes out for habitat, or if you have the room, leave dead trees where they are for wood-nesting bees and beetles.

  6. Get involved with local groups: Buncombe County Bee Keeper’s

Perennial Pollinator Friendly Plants

Summer classics yarrow and butterfly weed. A great plant combination and pollinator for bees and butterflies. Leave seed heads for birds in winter.

Summer classics yarrow and butterfly weed. A great plant combination and pollinator for bees and butterflies. Leave seed heads for birds in winter.

Check out the below list for easy to grow pollinator friendly perennials to add to your garden.

  • Agastache

  • Astilbe

  • Bee Balm

  • Blanket Flower

  • Butterfly weed

  • Catmint

  • Echinacea

  • Lavender

  • Liatris

  • Penestom

  • Phlox

  • Rudbeckia

  • Russian Sage

  • Sedum

  • Shasta Daisy

  • Veronica

  • Yarrow

For more perennial lists, check out this page for all the lists.

Written by Cinthia Milner, Garden Coach, blog writer

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.