Start In Your Backyard

It’s Pollinator Week and I wanted to take some time to share what we can all do to help our pollinators! Backyard gardens are critical to the survival of pollinators and you play a crucial role in allowing them to thrive! Here I will give you some tips on how you can help protect these senstive and necessary creatures!

But first, who are the pollinators and why are they important? Did you know that there are over 200,000 insect and animal pollinators and the majority are insects? Beetles, flies, ants, moths, bumblebees, honeybees, wasps, butterflies, are just a few.

70 out of 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world are pollinated

Why do people talk about how crucial the honeybee is to our food system? Because

List Of Pollinated Foods and Who Pollinates Them:

ALFALFA: leafcutter bees and honey bees

ALMOND: honey bees

ANISE: honey bee

APPLE: honey bees, blue mason orchard bees


AVOCADO: bees, flies, bats

BANANA: birds, fruit bats

BLUEBERRY: Over 115 kinds of bees, including bumblebees, mason bees, mining bees and leafcutter bees

CARDAMOM: honey bees, solitary bees

CASHEW: bees, moths, fruit bats

CHERRY: honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, flies

CHOCOLATE: midges (flies), stingless bees

COCONUT: insects and fruit bats

COFFEE: stingless bees, other bees or flies

CORIANDER: honey bees, solitary bees

CRANBERRY: Over 40 native bees, including bumble

DAIRY PRODUCTS: Diary cows eat ALFALFA pollinated by leafcutter and honey bees

FIG: 800 kinds of fig wasps

GRAPE: bees


KIWIFRUIT: honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees

MACADAMIA NUT: bees, beetles, wasps

MANGO: bees, flies, wasps

MELON: bees

NUTMEG: honey bees, bird

PAPAYA: moths, birds, bees

PEACH: bees

PEAR: honey bees, flies, mason bees

PEPPERMINT: flies, bees

PUMPKIN: squash and gourd bees, bumblebees

RASPBERRY and BLACKBERRY: honey bees, bumblebees, solitary bees, hover flies

SESAME: bees, flies, wasps


SUGARCANE: bees, thrips

TEA PLANTS: flies, bees and other insects


TOMATO: bumble bees


*List shared from this website

The Elephant in the Room-Are honeybees “bad”? Comparing a honeybee colony to solitary bees is like comparing apples to oranges. They just aren’t the same and pinning them against one another is like arguing that one butterfly is better than another. If we could understand and appreciate them for what they are, rather than pinning them against one another, I believe we could find ways to support all of the pollinators in the ways they need.

All bees are facing the threat of habitat loss, death from pesticides, and increasing temperatures.

Honeybees produce tangible goods such as honey, candlewax, and propolis, which make them different than other bees. Hive products are used in healthcare, cosmetics, and beauty products, to name a few. Some people ingest pollen and royal jelly for their health benefits. Due to their strength in numbers, honeybees are also used for pollination and thank you commerical beekeepers because I freakin’ love almond milk!

There is no black and white answer as to why some pollinators are threatened, but the most recent research (Frontiers in Bee Science, 2024) has proven that increasing temperatures (climate change) are affecting Bumblebees more than anything else. An “us vs them” mindset does more harm than good. We all want a healthy planet and healthy future for our friends and families.

1. Plant a Variety of Flowers

  • Diverse Species: Plant a range of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the growing season to provide continuous food sources.
  • Native Plants: Choose native plants as they are well-adapted to the local climate and are more beneficial to native pollinators.
  • Color Variety: Pollinators are attracted to different colors, so include a variety of hues, especially blue, purple, yellow, and white.

2. Create Habitat

  • Nesting Sites: Provide natural habitats for pollinators. Leave some bare ground for ground-nesting bees, and install pollinator hotels or nesting blocks for cavity-nesting species. Leave the leaves!
  • Yearround Water Sources: This is a critical element to helping support pollinators during the summer. Ensure a shallow water source, like a birdbath with stones for perching, to help pollinators stay hydrated. Keep a water source in the shade, if possible. That way bees and other pollinators can rest if needed.
  • Shelter: Plant dense shrubs or provide logs, rocks, and other shelters where pollinators can rest and hide from predators. Do not remove dying plants if possible. Pollinators-especially solitary ones-need places to safely overwinter.

3. Avoid Pesticides

  • Organic Gardening: Practice organic gardening by avoiding synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Read about alternatives to herbacides here
  • Integrated Pest Management: Use natural pest control methods like introducing beneficial insects, hand-picking pests, and using barriers or traps. Plant things that are tolerant of your growing conditions. Hand removal of weeds but only when necessary. Weeds actually protect from soil eroision, add organic matter, attract beneficial insects, and in some cases their roots accumulate nutrients while loosening soil.
  • Beneficial Nemotodes: These glorious things can seek out and kill soil dwelling insects like the Japanese Beetle! (Chattanoogans can purchase locally at Urban Horticulture Supply)

4. Provide Food Sources

  • Nectar and Pollen: Ensure a continuous supply of nectar and pollen by planting a mix of annuals, perennials, and shrubs. It’s extremely important to include late season blooms in your garden!
  • Host Plants: Plant host plants for butterfly and moth larvae (caterpillars). For example, milkweed for monarch butterflies.
  • Plant Trees: Trees are one of the most important first food sources of food for bees. We don’t often think about them because we cannot always see their blooms (though they make us sneeze and their pollen lingers in the air and on our vehicles, porches, etc.) but trees and shrubs are critical food sources for pollinators. *I was recently called by someone from a HOA to check if there was a swarm of bees hiding in the bush near the pool area. When I arrived I saw tiny little blooms on the shrubs and I realized the bees were just collecting resources from a Japanese boxwood!
Picture of an ugly bush

5. Maintain Blooming Continuity

  • Staggered Planting: Plant species that bloom at different times to ensure there is always something in bloom.
  • Early and Late Bloomers: Include early spring and late fall bloomers to support pollinators when other food sources are scarce. This is super important for bees as they get ready to go into a long winter.

6. Create a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape

  • Reduce Lawn Area: Convert part of your lawn into flower beds or wildflower meadows.
  • Wild Areas: Leave parts of your garden a bit wild and untidy to create a more natural habitat.
  • Cluster Planting: Plant flowers in clusters rather than single plants to make it easier for pollinators to find and feed on them.
  • What To Plant? Check out these fantastic books on my blog
My apiary in Red Bank, TN

7. Support Diverse Farming

  • Shop Local: Habitat heterognetity of local (organic) farms can have exponential benefits on pollinator health. It increases habitat and food sources available to pollinators.
  • Community Involvement: Encourage neighbors and community members to create pollinator-friendly spaces as well. Educate others and donate when you can!
Vacuuming bees in the street. NBD #savethebees

8. Support Nighttime Pollinators

  • Night-Blooming Plants: Include night-blooming flowers to support nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats.
  • Minimize Light Pollution: Artificial lights disorient moths and can impare pollination, finding mates, and evading predators. Honeybees and other insects can get stuck in an endless loop. This is called “Phototaxis”. Read more here

9. Plant Late Blooming Plants

  • Sustained Food Sources: Late summer and early Fall creates a “dearth” for pollinators. Everyone is hot, everyone is hungry, and everyone is angry! Late season blooms create opportunity for essential nectar and pollen so our pollinators can prepare for the Winter!