I’ve talked about gardening for bees and butterflies and some of nature’s “happier” pollinators.
But what happens when we garden for some of nature’s less popular pollinators? I think I mentioned that ants are some of my favorite pollinators. Here in the northeastern United States, they pollinate our spring ephemeral wildflowers. In fact, they pollinate anything with a specialized structure called an eliaosome.
Without getting too technical, this is a food source for the ants–and a way of dispersing seeds for the plants. But don’t just take my word for it. Here is a post that explains things far better than I can and lists several of the plants that rely on this wonderful means of seed dispersal.
Plant pollination isn’t the only reason that I love ants–but we’ll save that for some other time.
Another great pollinator that’s a sort of “out of the box” pollinator is the beetle–or more correctly, beetles. Most of us see beetles in our garden and we run of some sort of chemical but did it ever occur to you that they might actually be serving as pollinators? There are several types that do as this article can attest.
And it doesn’t really require any effort to attract these “out of the box” pollinators. They just show up in our gardens, particularly if we aren’t using pesticides to begin with.
The next time you see an insect–or insects–in the garden, before grabbing something to spray it with, try to determine its function. It’s said that 90% of all insects are benign. If that’s true, you might accidentally be spraying pollinators–and no one wants to do that.
We all have phones that have cameras now–snap a photo and try to ID the bug before deciding it doesn’t deserve to live. Chances are, it’s just something harmless–or even better, something beneficial.
You’ll be helping your garden, your ecosystem and our planet.
I sometimes write about flowers that are pollinated by unexpected pollinators, and what they do to attract them. Night blooming jasmine and other nocturnal flowers bloom after the sun goes down, and smell very sweet to attract nocturnal moths. Their pale colors are actually brightly colored in infrared or ultraviolet (I can not remember which is which.). Big fleshy saguaro (cactus) flowers that attract bats are stout enough for bats to land on. The weirdest are the arums that are pollinated by flies, so naturally smell like what flies are attracted to. ICK!
Yes, that’s why I was sort of vague about the beetles. There are plenty that are innocuous–I have a couple in my own garden. But folks don’t think about those. For some reason, they always think about the crazy nature shows that had giant beetles rolling balls of dung or something. Sure, those beetles exist. But we’re not going to have them in our gardens. The most exotic things we’re going to see is a giant scarab now and again.