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Seven Sons flower with a honeybee

Landscape for Pollinators

We have all heard about the plight of the honeybee but, all pollinators are having difficulties now. One solution is to develop a landscape for pollinators that considers the needs of pollinators as well as the aesthetics of landscape design.

A Landscape for Pollinators
Honeybee on mint flower


One of the first considerations is the needs of pollinators, what do they eat and where do they nest. Honeybees are cavity nesters. They are just as happy in a hollow tree as in a manufactured bee box. As is practical, leaving trees with cavities will help conserve feral bees. Other bees nest in holes and in bare ground. The hole dwellers use the hollow stems of plants and the abandoned tunnels of boring insects. Perfect neatness is an enemy of these insects. Designing for hidden islands of roughly cut back hollow stemmed perennials and annuals combined with areas left bare and un mulched will give these small insects a place to call home.

Some of these insects feed on pollen and others on nectar. They all need a full season of available food. Consider planting trees, shrubs and flowers that bloom periodically through the summer months. There are species available that bloom from February until frost. Summer blooming trees and shrubs provide a lot of available pollen and nectar in a small footprint. Vitex, Clethra and Lindens are powerful summer food sources. Also consider whether a tree or shrub has any available food. Many of the new cultivars are sterile producing no pollen or nectar. Some of the new all male cultivars produce pollen only. Pollinating insects will forage on native and nonnative plants alike.

Flowering annuals and perennials with single flowers are best for pollinators. Double and triple blooms while pretty, are difficult or impossible for pollinators to feed on they simply cannot get through the layers of petals to the food they need

Many Butterfly and moth caterpillars are specialists that feed on one or two species of plant. Their reproductive needs are quite individual. The White Oak Tree is host to hundreds of species of butterflies and moths. Willows and Maples are also generalist hosts to hundreds of insect species. Our native plant species are generally better for butterflies and moth species.

As much as anything, teaching the customer to not be insect phobic will be the most difficult job. Most of our native bees do not sting. Those that do only do so if they feel threatened. Honeybees do not attack unless the hive is threatened. Foraging honeybees are docile peaceful creatures. A few chewed leaves are not the end of the world, they may be the beginning of a beautiful butterfly

Designing a landscape for pollinators will take a little creativity and perhaps some hunting for the proper plants. We have chosen many of our popular landscape plant precisely because they are insect resistant. Insect resistance and pollinator friendly are not exclusive though, it just takes a little more attention to detail to make a landscape a friendlier place for pollinators.


A Landscape for Pollinators