Please, think of the bees (and butterflies!)

Every spring, I like to remind folks to think of the bees, butterflies, and birds as gardening gets underway in full force. Monarch butterfly numbers continue to decline at rapid rates (86% in one year just in California alone, per CNN), attributable to a combination of pesticide use, climate change, and habitat loss. Same story for pollinators like bees and beneficial wasps, and birds.

But helping wildlife stick around is easier than you might think. You don’t need to completely turn your whole yard into a small scale jungle. The best way to start is to add a few native perennials, shrubs, or small trees. A few of my favorites for attracting pollinators:

Agastache (Anise hyssop); I’ve never seen a plant attract so many bees
Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower); besides bees, goldfinches love to snack on the seed heads after it blooms
Parsley is great for attracting swallowtail caterpillars, which feed on the leaves, lay eggs, and then become swallowtail butterflies
Amelanchier (Serviceberry) is a small tree that is smothered in white flowers in spring, produces sweet berries in late summer that attracts all kinds of birds, with brilliant orange/red fall color

The Virginia Native Plant Society has a website offering PDF guides to plants that are native to each region of Virginia; check that out here: https://vnps.org/virginia-native-plant-guides/

If you wanted to go beyond just planting native plants, the National Wildlife Federation has great tips and ideas for creating a complete wildlife garden, including how to add sources of shelter and water.

The other side of this equation is also knowing what NOT to add to your garden. There are plants for sale at many nurseries and garden centers that, unfortunately, not only contribute little for native wildlife, but actually go on to harm the environment as they spread invasively via seed dispersal or suckers, pushing out native vegetation and disturbing streams and rivers. You can find a comprehensive list of invasive plants here:

https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/document/nh-invasive-plant-list-2014.pdf

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