Native Plants for West Michigan Pollinators
By Maleah Rakestraw
“Save the bees!” is a common mantra chanted by gardeners all across the great state of Michigan. According to Michigan State University’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative, there are over 450 different species of bees in the state. The importance of sustaining bee populations is not lost on the average Michigander, but providing a safe haven and continuous source of food throughout the frost-free months for both bees and other pollinators is an area that can sometimes be overlooked.
The European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is the primary bee used in pollination of agricultural crops, and other native bees or beneficial pollinating insects play a big part in the proliferation of native vegetation. Beetles, butterflies, bats, moths and flies are all excellent pollinators who have coevolved with particular species and are attracted to flowers with varying colors, scents, sizes and shapes. Beetles are one of the oldest known pollinators. Both they and flies prefer strongly fruity, bowl shaped flowers like aster and butterfly weed. Butterflies on the other hand are adapted to flowers with large petals which act as a landing platform and brightly colored blooms. Moths and bats primarily feed at night and are attracted to night blooming and light-colored flowers, like yucca or honeysuckle, which stand out in the darkness.
It’s no secret that native plants support native pollinator populations. Knowing the specificity of plants needed to support the diverse pollinators present in West Michigan, we can wield the available tools and knowledge to help the proliferation of these beneficial insects in our own backyards. The following slideshow presents a short list of landscape plants native to West Michigan which can provide food from spring through fall for our pollinating pals.