In past articles we discussed predatory and parasitic beneficials. Now we turn our attention to pollinators. Who are the important pollinators in your yard? Everyone is familiar with the non-native European honeybee (Apis mellifera), but there are so many more insects that provide our pollination services. In Oregon, we have over 700 species of NATIVE bees, all of whom are servicing our native and non-native plants. And good news: native bees do not sting!
All bees need pollen and nectar to reproduce. Many of our native bees are specialists on the pollen of particular native plants so that, if the plant isn’t present, those bees cannot survive. Plant natives! Some examples of our beautiful native bees are bumblebees – which everyone recognizes – sunflower bees, and others shown below.
Most of these bees are solitary stem or ground nesting bees. Young queens gather and build a “bee loaf” of pollen and nectar to lay an egg on, then seal that egg and food in a chamber.
Our second most important pollinators after bees are our native flies, especially the hoverflies.
These little bee mimics can be identified by their large eyes and their hovering behavior over flowers. Our beneficial flies overwinter in fallen leaves, and many of their larvae provide winter food for birds. So “leave the leaves”.
Moths and butterflies are a third group of important pollinators. Remember that all butterflies are moths (that fly in the daytime and are brightly colored), but not all moths are butterflies. The moths are critical nighttime pollinators, so it is important to put your outdoor lights on motion sensors, keeping your yard mostly dark for these important insects.
Wasps and beetles make up the other two large groups of pollinating insects.