Support Pollinators with a Native Landscape

A monarch (Danaus plexippus) utilizing the milkweed (Asclepias spp.) in Bryn Mawr, PA. Milkweed is an excellent plant for supporting pollinators, particularly because monarch populations rely on milkweed as hosts for their caterpillars so they can successfully reproduce.  (Photo: Heather Rosenfeldt)

A monarch (Danaus plexippus) utilizing the milkweed (Asclepias spp.) in Bryn Mawr, PA. Milkweed is an excellent plant for supporting pollinators, particularly because monarch populations rely on milkweed as hosts for their caterpillars so they can successfully reproduce.  (Photo: Heather Rosenfeldt)

Through the end of summer, the native landscape continues to surprise visitors with perennials in full bloom. Some of the species still in full bloom include: swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), asters (Aster novae-angliae), baby Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium), and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), among others. As we tend to the native landscapes, we at Refugia love to take a moment and appreciate the happy pollinators buzzing from plant to plant. 

Despite the common view of bees and insects as a nuisance, through understanding their importance, we have come to appreciate their presence in our gardens. Pollinators fill a crucial role in the vitality of plant and animal communities, and in our food production. Many of the crops we rely on as food require pollination to produce. Due to the increasing presence of invasive plants, broad-spectrum pesticides, and disease throughout the United States, pollinator communities have been in decline. Additionally, urban and suburban development has created widespread habitat fragmentation, which challenges pollinators as they search for appropriate spaces where they may thrive. We seek to create refuges for pollinators, and all of those who rely on them through designing native landscapes that support local ecology and hopefully, contribute to a healthy, functional ecosystem.

The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service of Pennsylvania has a great list, “Tips for Establishing a Healthy Pollinator Habitat,” which includes:

  • Providing a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators
  • Choosing plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing seasons
  • Whenever possible, choosing native plants
  • Avoid the use of pesticides. Practice Integrated Pest Management to reduce damage to plants and to protect pollinators by using less chemicals.

In our projects, Refugia works to incorporate all of these practices, and more, so we can maximize the ecological functionality of the green spaces in which we work. Please read more from the USDA’s page on “The Importance of Pollinators” here

After reading this, if you are wondering what you can do to help right this minute, consider installing a bee box, and creating some instant habitat in your backyard (available online or at a gardener’s supply store).