Bees do it. Butterflies do it. Moths do it.
In fact, lots of insects pollinate our flowers and edibles.
That's why National Pollinator Week – June 16-23 – is so important. The week spotlights the significant role that pollinators play in our everyday lives, and it encourages home gardeners to establish habitats that benefit pollinators.
"I could not grow flowers without the work of beneficial insects," said Lisa Ziegler who has a two-acre flower farm in the
"They are nature's hardest workers that maintain and balance the environment by keeping the bad bugs in check and pollinating flowers."
Other horticulturists readily agree.
"Seventy-five percent of all flowering plants, including one-third of the foods we eat, require animal pollination," said Helen Hamilton, a retired biology teacher and past president of the John Clayton Chapter Virginia Native Plant Society (www.claytonvnps.org).
"One in every three bites of food we consume comes from the activity of pollinators," adds Darl Fletcher, assistant horticultural curator at the
The living museum has a butterfly garden with 60 species of plants native to Virginia. The museum is also a designated Monarch Waystation where monarch butterflies can get nectar during their fall migration back to Mexico. For more information, go to http://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations.
"Without pollinators the world – animals and humans — goes hungry," Fletcher said.
Hard at work
Insects are among the hardest working of Mother Nature's creatures, working largely unnoticed in gardens — pollinating flowers, recycling dead material, eating each other, continues Hamilton.
"A healthy garden has clumps and drifts of plants of all sizes and shapes, closely planted. Not much habitat is available for pollinators when a few decorative plants are surrounded by yards of mulch," she said.
Pollinators also need homes near flowering plants where they can nest, hibernate and hide from predators, Hamilton added.
A wildlife habitat can be simply constructed of hollow stems, dead logs with drilled holes, bark, stones, or wooden pallets and perforated brick. These "pollinator hotels" provide safe homes for bees, beetles, wasps, lizards and many other beneficial animals. Such a structure was recently completed in the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in Freedom Park in James City County.
In addition to nectar plants with overlapping bloom times, pollinators appreciate a water source such as a birdbath or shallow dish lined with pebbles, according to Grace Chapman, director of horticulture at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.
"Bees especially need to collect water to cool their hives," she said.
"We are trying to make our visitors aware of the dire plight of the monarch butterfly, and to encourage them to plant Asclepias species (milkweed) in their garden at home," said Les Parks, curator of herbaceous plants at Norfolk Botanical Garden and author of the gardening blog, A Tidewater Gardener (http://atidewatergardener.blogspot.com).
"Asclepias and a few very closely related plants are the only food source for monarch caterpillars, and as any kindergartener will tell you, you can't have butterflies without caterpillars," Parks said. "We will be planting different varieties of Asclepias throughout the entire botanical garden, and especially in our butterfly garden."
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is doing something a bit different for 2014.
"This year we are also adding a home demonstration garden just outside the entrance to our butterfly house," Parks said. "This new garden will be small enough that most suburban or even urban gardeners can replicate it at home, and it will be full of easy-to-find plants that attract both adult butterflies, and caterpillars. Visitors to the garden will be able to take home a list of the plants we are growing."
Norfolk Botanical Garden recently installed a garden specifically designed to attract native pollinators —bees, wasps, hummingbirds, flies and other beneficial organisms. The garden is located outside the entrance of the World of Wonders Children's Garden so children and their parents can learn about the importance of insects.
"We have included a stepping stone path and a vine-covered, tunnel-like arbor so that guests can have a close encounter with the plants and all the activity in that garden," Parks said.
Plants in the garden include:
•Blue Fortune giant hyssop (Agastache)
•Wedgewood Blue Summer snapdragon (Angelonia)
•Silky Deep Red tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica)
•Oscar milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)
•Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
•Cosmic Yellow cosmos (
•Purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab)
•Lucky Pot of Gold lantana (Lantana camara)
•Egyptian starflower (Pentas lanceolata)
•Beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens)
•Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)
•Prairie Sun black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
•Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis)
•Homestead Purple verbena (Verbena
"In a very nearby garden is a large grouping of Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), which is one of our favorite plants for attracting native pollinators," Parks said.
"We are also very fond of the mountain mint, Blue Fortune agastache and the Oscar milkweed, which all 'buzz' with activity when they are in bloom."
Contact Kathy at email@example.com.
Mission Monarch: Project Milkweed. The butterfly house and three-acre Bristow Butterfly Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden are the backdrops for the summer exhibit which features daily presentations at the migration station by the Butterfly Society of Virginia. A special demo garden shows how a small backyard planting can attract butterflies and how to make a difference with just one milkweed plant. In addition, young and old can "migrate" through the Monarch Flyway, a 600-foot trail that connects the children's garden and butterfly house. Kids can crawl through a 14-foot caterpillar, wrap themselves in a chrysalis and go on a special hunt with Millie the Monarch to receive a special prize. Free with garden admission. 441-5830 or http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.
Daylily tour, show and plant sale. See hundreds of daylilies during a guided tour 10 a.m. and noon Sunday, June 15, at Norfolk Botanical Garden. Plant sale 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and exhibits 1-4 p.m. Free with garden admission. Sponsored by Tidewater Daylily Society. http://www.tidewaterdaylilysociety.org
Walk-and-talk pollinator series. All about moths 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 17 or Thursday, Aug. 14; all about hummingbirds 9:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday, Aug. 13; all about butterflies 9:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday, Sept. 17; native plants for pollinators 9-11 a.m. Saturday, July 19. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond. Free with garden admission. 804-262-9887 or http://www.lewisginter.org.
Children's garden. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. June 16-23 "Who's pollinating the garden?" activities and 2-4 p.m. beehive observations during National Pollinator Week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., Richmond. Free with garden admission. 804-262-9887 or http://www.lewisginter.org.
Flower farm tour. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, June 21, rain or shine. See how pollinators help create gorgeous flowers (10,000 stems weekly) for fresh-cut bouquets at Lisa Ziegler's flower farm, 20 Miller Road, off Lucas Creek Road, Denbigh area of Newport News. See how compost tea is made, how the tractor makes garden beds and follow Ziegler around the farm as she explains what's happening. Free. Street parking available. Also, pre-order Lisa's September book, "Cool Flowers," which helps you learn to grow flowers with the help of beneficial insects, for $17.95 until Aug. 31 with free shipping on signed copy. 877-7159 or http://www.thegardenersworkshop.com
Butterfly festival. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 19 at Norfolk Botanical Garden where the Butterfly Society of Virginia features educational demonstrations, music, food and gardening information. Free with garden admission. 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk. 441-5830 or http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.
Butterflies of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Saturday, July 19, join the Virginia Living Museum on its 23rd annual Butterfly Watch to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Be a part of this nationwide activity and help count and identify butterflies, enjoy Blue Ridge scenery and discover which native plants are butterfly magnets while also enjoying the insects and flowers along the wondrous Blue Ridge Parkway. Minimum age is 8 years; 16 without an adult. 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cost: $50; museum members, $35. Register in advance at 595-9135 or thevlm.org.
Honey bee festival. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 16 at Norfolk Botanical Garden where the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia features a fun-filled day with bee products, activities, vendors and beekeeping and bee-gardening information. Bee costume parade at 11 a.m.; special events in children's garden. Free with garden admission. 441-5830 or http://www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org.
For your garden
In honor of National Pollinator Week (June 16-22) Norfolk Botanical Garden recommends these caterpillar host and butterfly nectar plants for home gardens:
•Blue Chip dwarf butterfly bush (Buddleja)
•Kim's Knee High coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
•Crown of Rays goldenrod (Solidago)
•May Night sage (Salvia)
•Junior Walker catmint (Nepeta)
•Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
•Lucky Yellow lantana (Lantana camara)
•Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
•Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)
•Homestead purple verbena (Verbena canadensis )
•Zahara Double Fire zinnia (Zinnia marlandica)
•Sparkler White cleome (Cleome)
•Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis) \
•Tropical milkweed (Asclepias currasavica)
•Oscar milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus)
•Egyptian starflower (Pentas lanceolata)
•Bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
For more pollinator information, go to http://www.pollinator.org.
Kathy Hogan Van Mullekom@Facebook