Pollinators are the fundamental backbone of not just gardens, but agriculture as a whole. Did you know that 75% of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to continue as a species? It’s safe to say that without these helpful animals, the world would be a very different place.
Here in New England, there are three main types of pollinators, plus a few others that are less common. While planning your landscape design, it’s important to be aware of the kinds of plants and flowers that pollinators like to feed on so that you can create a space that not only looks great, but attracts animals that spread enough seeds and nectar to keep your yard healthy.
Most Common Pollinators in New England
- Bees and Wasps - Although these two insects are in the same class and suborder, they are completely different animals. The big difference between the two is that while bees mainly function as pollinators and producers of beeswax and honey, wasps are pollinators as well as predators and can sting multiple times. Bees are more docile than wasps and will typically leave you alone unless provoked (still, wasps don’t fly around hunting for people to sting). Though bees are more efficient pollinators because they have hairs that attract pollen, both animals play important roles in spreading pollen; wasps can also help your garden because they feed on destructive pests like ticks, moths and flies.
- Birds - The primary bird pollinator in Massachusetts (and the rest of the east coast) is the ruby-throated hummingbird. This hummingbird subsists on a mix of plant nectar and small insects. As a hummingbird flies around to feed, pollen sticks to its beak and face, which is then deposited onto the next flower it visits. Not only are these birds helpful pollinators, they add a beautiful aesthetic element to your yard.
- Butterflies - There are more than one hundred different species of butterflies throughout the New England region. Although they carry less pollen than bees, butterflies make up for it by visiting more flowers per feeding session. As they feed on the nectar from flowers, they deposit it on the next plant; pollen also gets onto their wings and legs.
What about other pollinators?
There are a few other common types of pollinators you might be thinking of who aren’t listed here. They include flies, moths, beetles, and bats. While all of these animals can be effective pollinators, the three listed above are most common in Massachusetts. For example, the only bats that serve as true pollinators are found in the southwestern United States, where they feed on cacti.
How do I attract the most important pollinators in New England?
The key to bringing pollinators into your yard and garden is choosing the plants that they are attracted to. For an in-depth answer to this question, check out our earlier post on pollinator habitats. Be sure to consider both the kind of pollinators you want to attract as well as the plants and flowers you like - there’s bound to be a few that match. Hummingbirds, for example, like brightly-colored tubular flowers such as the cardinal flower or bleeding hearts.
And if you really want to ensure you design and plant a garden that’s effective for attracting pollinators, give us a call here at Moodscapes. We have decades of experience studying, planning, and working on yards throughout New England. With our advice you’ll be well on your way to a garden that looks great, stays healthy, and brings in beautiful pollinators.
Moodscapes LLC is an organic landscape design and service company with a focus on helping you extend your life outdoors to enjoy activities on your own, as a family and with friends. We create opportunities for you to commune with and find joy and peace in nature and to live in an ecologically friendly and healthy environment. Please explore our landscape services and the portfolio that demonstrates many examples of our work.