Happy National Pollinator Week! I know what you’re thinking- Pollinator week is every week. Well, that’s true. But this week, we wanted to highlight the amazing creatures that pollinate our fruits and vegetables, and allow us to have healthy, delicious foods. In this post, you will find (at least) three different ways to help your local pollinators, and fun, hands-on pollinator friendly activities to do with your family around.
When I talk to kids about pollinators, I like to ask them what they think pollinators need to live. Their needs are similar to ours! Food, water, and shelter. What do pollinators eat? Nectar, and often, pollen, from flowers. As the pollinators visit the flowers, some of the pollen rubs off on each flower they go to, which is the process we call pollination. This is how plants make their fruits and seeds. In order to attract more pollinators, you should provide a wide variety of food for them- not all pollinators like to eat the same things! Butterflies are attracted to red and orange flowers, and bees’ favorite colors are blue and white. Meanwhile, hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers. In addition, you want to think about the time of year your blossoms are blooming. It is important for a good pollinator habitat to have something in bloom almost the whole year- from February to October when they are most active.
One thing to think about if you have a garden is letting some of your veggies “go to seed”. For instance, letting radishes flower creates a great food source for butterflies and is pretty to look at until you need to plant something else!
A fun activity to do with kids is making Pollinator Seed Bombs. This is a quick, simple, messy project that’s good for pre-K and elementary aged kids. Watch Foxberry’s video on how to make this project here:
Like humans and other animals, pollinators need a water source! When thinking about water for pollinators, remember bees can’t really swim! When their wings get wet, they are unable to take off and fly again until they dry off. Therefore, you don’t want to keep a deep bowl out as a water source for bees. One thing you can do is put marbles or rocks in your bowl for the bees to land on and sip from. Using a shallow dish like a plant saucer works well. First, find some rocks from the garden, and arrange the rocks in the dish. Then fill the container with water just up to the level of the rocks. Place it somewhere in the shade so the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly.
Butterflies, on the other hand, prefer drinking from mud. This behavior is called “puddling”. Butterflies get the salt and nutrients they need from the minerals in the wet soil. You can help these colorful fluttering creatures by creating a butterfly puddle! Again, find a shallow dish, like an old pie pan or plant saucer, fill it about halfway with soil, and mix in water! Make sure your butterfly puddle stays wet all summer so butterflies can sip from it. Place the mud puddle somewhere visible, but where it won’t dry out too easily. If you want to, you can decorate it with pretty stones for the insects to land on or place rocks in a fun pattern in the mud. In the early spring, this is also a great project for mason bees, which require mud to make their nests.
Creating a place where pollinators can live can be a bit more tricky. “Pollinator hotels” are generally used for nesting. Which materials you use for pollinator hotels depends on which pollinators you want to attract. Mason bees, for example, come out in early Spring, around March, and need tubes about ¼ inches wide and 3-6 inches deep. Leafcutter bees, however, come out in the summer and need tubes or holes only 8 millimeters wide! Other materials such as dried leaves and moss can also be used as nesting material and to add an interesting look to your design.
Here is a really great resource on how to make a DIY beneficial insect hotel: https://www.fix.com/blog/guide-to-making-your-own-insect-hotels/
Like this topic? Check out these other resources!
Pollinator activities on KidsGardening.org
City Fruit Pollinator Bingo