Obviously, pollinators are important.
An estimated one-third of the food we eat comes from plants pollinated by animals.
Bees, wasps, flies and hummingbirds are vital pollinators.
Scientists have found that it takes eight or more visits by a bee to a watermelon flower to produce a single watermelon.
So, please consider planting a pollinator garden to increase populations of these beneficial insects.
Similar to butterfly gardens, pollinator gardens incorporate the use of plants, such as host and nectar plants, that attract butterflies. However, they differ in that selected plants also attract other pollinators such as native bees, flies and hummingbirds.
Bees need nectar and pollen, both of which are provided by flowers. Nectar serves as the primary source of carbohydrates for bees, and pollen is essential to brood production, young bee development and hive growth. Interestingly, all pollen is not created equal, and “pollen from different floral sources has different quantities of each component” (Ellis, et al, 2013).
Recognizing that pollinators are important, local Lutz Girl Scout Troop No. 360 worked in partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County to plant a pollinator demonstration garden at the extension office while earning their Silver Awards.
Silver Awards encourage the cadettes to design their own community project and understand how they impact their community. Obtaining the award requires completing an approved cause and issue service project that is at least 50 volunteer hours.
The purpose of this project is to teach youth and their families about the importance of pollinators, and the relationship between plants and pollinators. This project promotes Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principles, especially with regard to reducing stormwater runoff, attracting wildlife, reducing pollinator risk when using pesticides, and beautifying our community while preserving and conserving resources such as water.
In addition to planting the pollinator garden, the Girl Scouts wrote newspaper articles and press releases, installed micro-irrigation, created a pollinator display and provided docent tours to the public.
The Girl Scouts learned that there are many plants that attract pollinators. Examples of great Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM plants include buttonsage lantana Lantana involucrata, blanket flower Gaillardia pulchella, pink swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata, frogfruit Phyla nodiflora, rayless sunflower Helianthus radula, calamint Calamintha ashei, and white top aster Oclemena reticulata.
Pollinators are important because they help increase fruit set, quality and size, and these benefits can also translate to economic impacts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 estimated bee pollinated commodities accounted for $20 billion in annual U.S. agricultural production. Pollinator gardens are unique and these gardens can teach residents and youth how to attract pollinators to their landscapes, while reducing negative environmental impacts associated with landscape management practices.
You can visit the extension office to learn about plants that attract pollinators. The extension office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visitors can tour the pollinator garden, along with the Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden and the perennial garden, for free.
Children and their parents can check out pollinator backpacks that contain insect and flower sketch plates, field identification cards, magnifying lenses and books. There is something new to see each time you visit the gardens, and we hope you are inspired to create a pollinator garden of your own.
Sources for this column:
- Sanford, M. and J. Ellis. (2016). Beekeeping: Watermelon Production. IFAS Publication Number ENY-154. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/aa/aa09100.pdf.
- Ellis, A., J. Ellis, M. O’Malley and C. Nalen. (2013). The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees. IFAS Publication Number ENY-152. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in868.
For additional information, contact or (813) 744-5519, ext. 54145.
Nicole Pinson is an Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County. The author gratefully acknowledges Lynn Barber for contributing to this article. Barber is a Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County.
Revised September 22, 2016