Pollinating Plants: Insects to Keep in Your Garden

Although there are some insects that do considerable damage to your garden, many play a vital role in pollinating plants. You probably know already that bees and butterflies are two of nature’s great pollinators, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones you want to keep.

In fact, there are many insects that are almost as efficient in pollinating plants and flowers as bees and butterflies.

waspFriendly Insects to Keep in the Garden

Wasps are a close relative of bees and although they aren’t as effective as pollinating flowers, many species do visit flowers and some plants actually depend on certain was species for pollination. The broad-leaved helleborine, for example, relies heavily on the common and European wasp to spread their pollen. If you keep figs in your garden, keep an eye out for fig wasps. They are specialized pollinators and are the only ones that can actually pollinate the tiny flowers developing inside the fig fruit. Without them, figs just wouldn’t thrive.

Speaking of relatives, moths are another friendly flier that you’ll want to keep in your garden. Though not as pretty as butterflies, they are arguably more efficient pollinators as most of them tend to be hairy. Part of the reason why bees are more effective than wasps as pollinators is that the pollen tends to stick on their hairs. While moths don’t exactly have these specialized hairs, they are furry enough for pollen to stick to their bodies, which means they pollinate flowers faster than their pretty-winged counterparts.

The Humble Beetle

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You probably would not think of beetles as pollinators, but these hard-shelled insects were pollinating plants and flowers even before bees, butterflies, and moths took wing. Fossil evidence shows that beetles were one of the first, if not the very first insects to have specifically evolved to pollinate plants. They began doing their jobs about 150 years ago, 50 million years earlier than the first bees.

BeetleYou can consider them specialist pollinators, though, since many pollinating beetles tend to hang around flowers that are closely descended from ancient plants that their own ancestors used to pollinate. If you keep magnolias, water lilies, or any cantharophilous plants, you may want to add some beetles to your garden. Soldier, jewel, and checkered beetles are ideal.

Be warned, though, that they are mess-and-soil pollinators; they don’t use a proboscis to suck nectar and gather pollen. They tend to chew part of the plant and it’s their droppings that serve as the catalyst for pollination.

These are just some of the insects you want to keep in your garden to ensure your plants and flowers are properly pollinated. They may not be as pretty or well-known as butterflies and bees, but they do play a role in making sure your plants and flowers thrive and spread throughout your garden.