Protect Our Precious Pollinators

Protect Our Precious Pollinators

Our landscapes — and food supplies — depend on them. Bee a good neighbor and return the favor with some pollinator-pleasing plantings. We've listed a few to get you started!

Why Bees Matter

Did you know pollinating insects are responsible for the pollination of 75 percent of food species that are consumed by humans? That’s right folks, without these species our favorite foods may not be as easily accessible and affordable as they currently are.

Did you also know you can provide pollinator habitat simply using the WaterSaver Landscape Coupon to install a pollinator-friendly garden? Whether you’re concerned about food production from a human perspective or looking at the issue from a pollinator’s perspective, the message is the same: we need these species for their pollination services.

How You Can Bee Friendly

There are many other things you can do to help pollinators. First and foremost, get familiar with the issues facing pollinators today. The Xerces Society is a great resource for this information. Another important thing I must stress is the lack of emphasis on native pollinators — only recently has a native pollinator, the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee, been listed as a federally endangered species. This is a step in the right direction because it will bring attention to the many other dwindling populations of native bees.

While the European honeybee is utilized as an agricultural tool and is experiencing some population losses, they’re raised all over the world by beekeepers and are not necessarily in as much danger as our rare and unique native species. European honeybees also compete for resources with our native species, making times harder for our native species.

Native pollinators are known as keystone species, meaning many other species depend on their existence. For example, if there are no bees to pollinate herbaceous flowers and flowering trees, then there will be no fruit and seed produced for birds and mammals. According to some experts 40 percent of the world’s pollinator species face extinction in the next few decades!

There are many things harming our pollinators, including habitat loss, habitat degradation, widespread insecticide use, invasion by non-native plants and contraction of disease from domesticated bee colonies.

Now that we know the threats, what can we do about it?

Sesonal Selections Menu for Pollinators


Spring-Fall

Design your garden using plants that bloom from spring to fall in order to supply food (nectar) throughout the growing season. You may want to plant agarita, prairie penstemon, Texas redbud, native milkweeds, Mexican plum or Anaqua to bloom in spring.

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata
Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis
Mexican plum
Prunus mexicana
Anaqua
Ehretia anacua


Summer

Ensure summer blooms by planting mealy blue salvia, narrow-leaf coneflower, butterfly weed, damianita, blackfoot daisy, and autumn sage.

Coneflowers
Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea
Damianita
Chrysactinia mexicana
Blackfoot daisy
Melampodium leucanthum
Autumn Sage
Salvia greggi


Fall
For fall blooms, plant liatris, goldenrod, golden crownbeard, fall aster and ironweed. Many of these plants are included in our Watersaver Landscape Coupon.

Liatris
Liatris punctata var. mucronat
Goldenrod
Solidago sp.
Ironweeds
Vernonia lindheimeri, V. baldwinii
Fall aster
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium


More Tips

  • When purchasing plants, ask your nursery if they’ve been treated with systemic insecticides. If so, avoid and seek out plants that have not been treated with insecticides.
  • If starting wildflowers from seed, purchase from distributors that provide locally appropriate mixes such as Native American Seed from Junction, Tx. In addition to being great resources and invaluable land stewards, they offer seed of individual flower species as well as mixes, try the “Bee Happy” mix or the “Apache Plateau” mix.

Another great resource is the Pollinator Partnership website. Under the ‘Planting Guides’ link, you can enter your zip code to view a list of recommended pollinator plants for your area. Also important to note are the nesting requirements of native bees. Carpenter bees nest in dead wood, miner bees nest in the ground and mason bees nest in hollow stems of vegetation. Bumblebees may nest in large, native bunchgrasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, Lindheimer’s muhly, gulf muhly, eastern gamagrass, or yellow Indian grass, to name a few. Include these grasses in your garden to help the benevolent bumblebee. Bumblebees may also nest in abandoned animal burrows in the ground and can be present in colonies of a few hundred.

You can purchase or create solitary bee houses made of groupings of hollow-stemmed vegetation. If possible, leave standing dead trees, known as snags, to encourage carpenter bee nesting. However, don’t compromise your safety by leaving a standing dead tree over or near your house as it could potentially fall and harm someone.

Cool Bee Facts

  • If planting tomatoes, your best bet for a good yield is bumblebees as they have a unique adaptation called buzz-pollination that must be utilized to release pollen grains in the flowers. This is where European honeybees fall short, they don’t have this new world adaptation (they’re not indigenous to the Americas) and are useless for pollinating these food crops.
  • Native bees are much more efficient at pollinating crops than European honeybees. But native bees are not easily domesticated like European honeybees due to their nesting requirements. This makes them difficult to utilize in large-scale agriculture.
  • Seventy-five percent of flowering plants worldwide require animals such as hummingbirds, bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, moths and bats for pollination.
  • There are about 4,000 species of bees in the United States; Texas has several hundred species within its boundaries.
  • Ninety percent of bee species are solitary, meaning they don’t live in hives like the non-native European honeybee or any of the native bumblebees.
  • Native bees are typically non-aggressive. Some may sting if they feel their nest is threatened. Native bees are highly efficient pollinators as they exhibit a foraging behavior called flower constancy. This means they visit the same species of flower for extended periods of time, this increases the opportunities for pollination.

Now that you’re a pollinator expert, do your part and make your garden prime real estate for these fuzzy critters and let SAWS help you do it with the Watersaver Landscape Coupon!

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Sarah Galvan

About our expert

Sarah Galvan

Sarah Galvan is a conservation consultant and has been passionate about gardening since she was a child. She's an arborist, herbalist, Texas master naturalist and holds a native landscape certification. Before coming to SAWS, Galvan worked as a native landscape designer where she focused on supporting native birds and pollinator populations. When she’s not answering gardening questions or working on her biology degree, Galvan enjoys hiking, kayaking, bird and butterfly watching, and competing in plant identification competitions.