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How to Attract Pollinators

You are probably familiar with what pollination is and what some of the insects are that help with this, but do you know how to attract pollinators to your garden?

Many of our prettiest insects feed on nectar, so need flowering plants for their survival. Butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies all need sources of nectar and pollen to thrive.

One of the obvious ways to attract them is to plant a variety of nectar producing flowers in the garden. Variety is the key and you will want to include flowers, shrubs, bushes and even perhaps a tree or two if you have enough space.

Stagger the flowering times

Plant for Pollinators imageTo ensure your pollinators will have food for most of the year, try to plan to have flowers in your garden for most of the year:

  • Plants that flower in early spring (such as English Bluebell, Grape Hyacinth and Primrose)
  • Flowers that bloom in late autumn (plants like French Marigold, Honeysuckle and Ivy).

Many trees and shrubs bloom in early spring when other natural food sources are still scarce. Including these in your garden will help these insects when they need it the most. Plan your other plants so that you have flowers in your garden at different times during the various seasons. Visit the RHS website to download their "Plants for Pollinators" guides.

Mix up the colours and smells

A variety of flowers of different colours, shapes and scents will help to attract a large variety of different pollinator insects. For example, bees are usually attracted to blue and purple flowers, so Lavender, Honeysuckle or Fuchsias would work well.

If you don't have much space you can even plant flowers in containers on a balcony or patio, or even in window boxes.

Stop using pesticides

Never use pesticides on plants in flower, as these are dangerous for pollinators, such as bees. Pesticides can also affect the PH balance of the soil, meaning that vital micro-organisms do not survive.

The best way to naturally manage pests is to plant a variety of species, including those, such as Coriander, that attract beneficiary insects that feed of the pests.

Provide water

Make sure there is some clean water for all pollinators, such as a shallow dish, bowl or birdbath. Whatever you choose, make sure that there are shallow edges where the insects can safely drink without falling in and drowning. You can do this by putting in some stones or rocks that are half covered by the water.

Provide pollinators with safe habitats

Leaving areas of your garden undisturbed and naturally messy is the easiest way to provide a habitat for pollinators in your garden - this can be achieved by leaving just 1 square metre of your garden. Why not consider making a bee or bug hotel? Visit RSPB or Wildlife Trust for instructions on how to make one yourself, with easy to come by materials. Alternatively, you could turn an area of land or garden into a Nectar Café? Somerset Wildlife Trust has guidance on how to do this, as well as information on different pollinator-friendly species.

Something as simple leaving some dead tree trunks or logs in your garden can be just as effective. These will be used by certain bees that nest in wood and also by some beetles. You can disguise them by growing ivy or other creeping plants over them.

The pollinator insects need help to survive and thrive. Every little thing you do will make a difference and will help them in some way. Even if you only have a little space with a pot of flowers, this will make a difference. Download the Wildlife Trust's "Wild Bee Action Pack" for more guidance on how you can help pollinators in your gardens.