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What Pollinators Can You Find in Your Backyard?

It’s June in North America, and right now, you can find a variety of pollinators right in your very own backyard! These creatures are critical to the cornerstone of nature; pollinating flowers, fruits, and vegetables. As your look through natural areas around your home, see if you can spot some of these amazing pollinators.


Bees

1. Honey Bees (Apis mellifera): Known for their role in agriculture, honeybees are one of the only insects counted as “livestock” like cows. Brought to America by the Europeans, for creating honey and other products, they are now common in most gardens and are crucial for pollinating a wide range of plants.


2. Bumblebees (Bombus spp.): Larger and fuzzier than honeybees, bumblebees are effective pollinators for various flowers, including those that honeybees might overlook. Instead of carrying pollen on their back legs as honeybees do, bumblebees cover themselves in pollen and return to their hive to have it removed by other bees.

3. Solitary Bees: This group includes many species, such as mason bees (Osmia spp.), leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), and carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.). They are efficient pollinators, often working early in the season and in adverse weather conditions. They are also gentler and rarely sting as they don’t have a queen or hive to protect.


Butterflies and Moths

1. Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus): Recognizable by their orange and black wings, monarchs are known for their long migrations and preference for milkweed plants. They are sometimes confused with Painted Lady or Viceroy Butterflies (see pic for a comparison). Monarchs are now listed as endangered by the United Nations and desperately need our help! You can help with creating environments to help them migrate!

2. Swallowtail Butterflies (Papilionidae family): These butterflies have distinctive tail-like extensions on their hind wings and are attracted to a variety of garden plants. There are dozens of species in the U.S. and one is the largest of all butterflies with a wingspan of 6 ½ inches!

3. Hawk Moths (Sphingidae family): Active at dusk and night, these moths have long proboscises that allow them to pollinate deep-throated flowers. You can find them from May to September. They are also an important food source for bats and birds!




Flies

1. Hoverflies (Syrphidae family): Resembling bees or wasps, hoverflies can’t hurt you or sting. They are excellent pollinators, particularly in cooler weather when bees are less active. When they are in their larvae, they eat garden pests like Aphids.


2. Bee Flies (Bombyliidae family): These cute and fuzzy flies are often seen hovering near flowers and are important for pollination. Like Hoverflies, they don’t bite or sting. They tend to like sandy and rocky areas.

Beetles

1. Lady Beetles (Coccinellidae family): While primarily known for eating pests like aphids, some lady beetles also contribute to pollination. There are many versions of Ladybugs, and one of the few insects you can order online or purchase in bags at the store to help control other pests like Aphids. If you happen to feel a bite from one, that’s not a friendly Ladybug but an Asian Beetle.



2. Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae family): These beetles are often found on flowers and can act as pollinators while searching for nectar and pollen. They may look like Lightening Bugs but are not. They’re named for their appearance which is similar to British “red coats” army soldiers from the 1700’s.

Wasps

1. Paper Wasps (Polistes spp.): Though less efficient than bees, some wasps do contribute to pollination while foraging for nectar. Some people leave up an abandoned nest hanging as they only will use it once and it tends to discourage other wasps from building nearby.

2. Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.): These wasps can sometimes be found pollinating flowers, though they are more known for their aggressive behavior which make them the scariest of the yellow stripey bugs! In fact, they are the source of around 90% of reported insect stings. They live in colonies and fly as far away as a mile in search of nectar and predators to eat.


Birds

1. Hummingbirds (Trochilidae family): Particularly in the southern regions and along the west coast, hummingbirds are important pollinators for tubular flowers, such as trumpet vines and honeysuckles. They also have an amazing memory because they remember every flower and feeder they visit! During migration, they can fly thousands of miles. In fact, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird can fly 500 flies without a single stop. Providing them with a feeder can help their journey!

Others

1. Bats: In some southern regions, nectar-feeding bats can be found pollinating flowers, and particularly those that open at night. There are over 1,400 species found throughout the world. One of our favorite activities of bats is their love for eating mosquitos! If you enjoy tequila, please thank a bat because they are the ones who pollinate the agave plant – along with avocados and bananas! Many people are hosting bat houses in their backyards to save some species from extinction.

We can all work towards creating a more-friendly pollinator area with a variety of native plants, providing water sources, and avoiding pesticides. Check out our store for ideas and solutions which can help attract and support these beneficial creatures in your own backyard, patio, or balcony.

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