Since 2006 we have heard about the unfortunate loss of honey bee colonies in North America and elsewhere. The decline in the number of bees is both shocking and frightening and blamed on a number of causes. Additionally, there’s been much discussion about the lack of Monarch butterflies this past summer.
Anyone can implement a few minor changes to make their outdoor spaces more welcoming for both bees and butterflies. Even using just one of these ideas can be beneficial. As is often said, one small step can make a difference.
Ways you can help the bees:
Plant flowers with open petals and upright stamens (cosmos, coneflowers) for easy access by our pollen-loving friends. Choose flowers that are heavy pollen producers (penstemon, salvia). Some herbs provide food for insects as well as humans so add them to your garden also (oregano). Limit or eliminate pesticide usage. Plant cover crops and use compost rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers.
Make sure your garden blooms from very early spring (crocus) to late fall (asters) to provide food as long as possible.
If you have open spaces like fields, road sides, etc., plant with native wildflower mixes. Not all weeds need to be eradicated; see if the bees and butterflies are enjoying the buffet they offer and if they are, leave some of them be.
Ways you can help the butterflies:
Provide host plants such as milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) for emerging Monarch caterpillars. Monarch larvae appear to feed exclusively on milkweeds. Butterflies love butterfly bush (Buddleia), coneflower (Echinacea), asters and marigolds. Choose flowers that have easy access points for nectar sipping (phlox, gaillardia, pentas).
Same as for bees, herbs provide food for butterflies so add them to your garden also (fennel, parsley). Plant a variety of sun-loving annuals, perennials, wildflowers and shrubs as butterflies prefer sunny spots. In that same vein, include a wide range of flower colors as well.
Did we mention planting host plants, such as milkweed?