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Step 1: Provide Food for Pollinators

Cert_1b.jpgNectar & Pollen Sources
GO NATIVE! Native plants are the heart of a pollinator friendly garden.  Research shows that native plants are 4 times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives, so planting natives in your yard will supply pollinators with the nutrition they need to thrive. Natives are also well adapted to survive in a particular geographic area according to the climate, soils, rainfall and availability of pollinators and seed dispersers. And because they are indigenous to a specific region, native plants usually require little maintenance and are welcomed by wildlife, serving an important role in the local ecosystem.

Here are some more suggestions for optimizing your pollinator plantings.

  • Provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall by planting a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with a variety of flower shapes and sizes.
  • Choose a variety of colors to attract a diversity of pollinators.
  • Plant in groups or drifts to make the flowers easily visible to pollinators.
  • Avoid modern hybrids, especially those with “double” flowers. Plant breeders may have sacrificed the pollen and nectar to gain a showier bloom.

Plant in drifts

Plant in groups or drifts to make the flowers easily visible to pollinators.

Where can you buy pollinator friendly native plants? The PA Native Plant Society has a list of nurseries throughout the state. And don’t forget to look for native plant sales sponsored by Penn State Extension Master Gardeners and other conservation organizations.
 
The links below will help you learn more about planting for pollinators. Even experienced gardeners will find some “new” plants to attract pollinators in the links. Check them out!

In order to certify, the following is required of your garden:

  • Provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall
  • Provide a variety of flower shapes and sizes
  • Incorporate pollinator friendly native plants into your garden

Larval Host Plants for Butterflies and Moths
Without host plants for butterfly larvae (caterpillars) there will be no butterflies! So don’t forget to provide this vital food source.  Many butterfly larvae can only feed on one or two specific host plants, particularly native trees, shrubs and perennials, that are vital to their survival.  Here are some examples:

  • Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed
  • Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars feed mainly on spicebush and sassafras

caterpillars

(Left) Spicebush swallowtail caterpillar feeding on spicebush (Right) Monarch caterpillar feeding on milkweed

These caterpillars will eat the leaves of their host plants, so don’t panic when you see some holes.  It just means the plants are doing their job.

To learn more, and for a list of larval host plants, check out these publications:


In order to certify, the following is required of your garden:

  • Provide larval host plants to support butterflies and moths

PROCEED TO STEP 2: Provide Water Sources for Pollinators