DIG IT! Gardening for Butterflies, Bees and Wild Birds
by Sage and Snow Garden Club
May 26, 2008
Gardening for butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other wild birds is simple and very rewarding. Beautiful wild birds, especially songbirds, will flock to the insect-rich blooms, dying seed heads and spent flowers. Without pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, many native wildflowers would fail to reproduce.
Did you know we’re also currently in the midst of a major bee-loss epidemic in both North America and Europe? This is very serious since pollinators affect 35% of the world’s crop production and increase the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. Extending a little hometown hospitality to these beneficial pollinators is not only beneficial locally, it’s also crucial.
- Place flowers, flowering shrubs and flowering trees (that birds, butterflies and bees are typically drawn to) in different locations. Native plants are a good choice since they’re adapted the local climate and elevation, evolved to grow reliably in less than ideal conditions, don’t require significant care once established and are resistant to common pests and disease. You can ask your local garden club, nursery, or University of Wyoming Extension Office for your county for native plant suggestions. Non-native plants can also be used such as Nasturtium, Dianthus, Borage and Delphinium.
- Plant clusters of the same species together. For those who have a very small yard space, plant flowers in pots.
- Plant flowers with different blooming times to provide nectar throughout the season. Examples of long-season bloomers are Coreopsis grandiflora (Tickseed), Gaillardia grandiflora (Blanket Flower), and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower). Some wildflower plants, such as the Bachelor Button, have extrafloral nectaries. This means that the plant has nectar-producing glands physically apart from the flower. These glands release nectar even when the plant isn’t blooming. Aren’t plants amazing!
- Provide a water source such as dripping water or a shallow pool during the summer. Bird baths in the winter with a heater to keep it clear of ice will draw birds to your yard. (More birds die during the winter from dehydration than starvation.)
- Provide shelter from wind, predators and places to roost.
A FEW NOTES SPECIFIC ABOUT...
- Provide a variety of food. Sunflower seeds and Nyger “thistle” seed are especially effective. Suet, fruit, peanuts and mealworms are also appreciated.
- Different birds prefer different types of feeders. Using tube feeders, hummingbird feeders, suet feeders, hopper feeders in the same yard will attract different types of birds.
- Many birds will nest in man-made bird houses. If you offer shelter and nesting sites, you’ll attract more birds.
- While these “garden jewels” enjoy nectar from flowers and sugar water from feeders, a large part of their diet is actually insects. They also like tree sap and the insects attracted to the sap. Hummingbirds leave when the insect population drops below what they need to survive.
- Using the wrong kinds of sugar solutions (never use honey) or leaving moldy feeders out can kill hummingbirds and their babies. Adding red food-dye coloring is unnecessary. The red on the feeder is enough of an attraction. Commercial, dye-free “hummer” food can usually be purchased locally.
- Clean feeders every couple days with water and vinegar only. Washing with anything else can leave enough of a residue (even after a thorough rinsing) that can harm hummingbirds.
- Hummers are stimulated by colors and are especially attracted to bright red, pink and orange flowers. Fragrance isn’t important.
- Remember to leave some room between plants so they can maneuver.
Butterflies, Bees, and Other Beneficial Insects (lacewings, ladybugs, ground beetles)
- You’ll need to try to provide a pesticide-free sanctuary. Adult butterflies can be killed by just resting on an insecticide-treated surface.
- Gardens with 10 or more species of attractive plants have been found to entice the most bees.
- Bees have been known to travel 1 ˝ miles to gardens that have been lightly scented with 100% essential oil of Anise! (Can purchase at health food stores).
- Ornamental clump-forming grasses, such as ‘Jose Select’ Tall Wheatgrass or ‘Sea Urchin’ Blue Fescue, not only add a new dimension to your garden but also provide excellent summer shelter and overwintering sites.
By providing a habitat for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other wild birds, not only do you get to enjoy their beauty and song, you also help ensure their survival.
Contact the Sage and Snow Garden Club at Box 2280, Pinedale, WY 82941 or email@example.com. The Sage and Snow Garden Club meets at noon on the second Tuesday of each month in the Pinedale Library. The next meeting will be June 10.
B=Butterflies H=Hummingbirds Bz = Bees
* = Non-native Plants (S) = Shrubs WB=Wild Birds
*Adjuga (Adjuga reptans) H
Allium senescens “Blue Twister’ (Corkscrew Ornamental Onion) B
Anthemis tinctoria ‘Susanna Mitchell’ (Susanna Mitchell Marguerite Daisy) B
Aquilegia caerulea ‘Rocky Mountain Columbine) B H
Aquilegia formosa (Red Spur Columbine) B H
Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ (Purple Dome New England Aster) B
*Calendula (Calendula offininalis)
Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Sunray’ (Sunray Tickseed) B WB
Dalea purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover) B
*Delphinium H WB
Echinops banaticus ‘Blue Blow’ (Blue Glow Globe Thistle) B
Echinacea purpurea ‘Rubinstein’ (Ruby Star Purple Coneflower)
Gaillardia grandiflora ‘Arizona Sun’ (Blanket Flower) B
Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Tucson Sun’ PPAF (Tucson Sun False Sunflower) B
Heuchera sanguinea ‘Firefly’ (Coral Bells) H
(S) Honeysuckle B H WB
Monarda ‘Jacob Kline’ (Jacob Kline Hardy Beebalm) B H
Penstemon pinifolium ‘Compactum’ (Compact Pineleaf Penstemon) H
Phlox subulata ‘Drummons Pink’ (Drummons Pink Moss Pink) B
(S) Serviceberry WB
Verbena bipinnatifida (Great Plains Verbena) B