This June 10, 2015 photo shows a honeybee about to descend on a blackberry blossom growing near Langley, Wash. Hundreds of flowers, shrubs, trees and vines can be used to sustain pollinators. Take a walk around the neighborhood to determine which blooms are the most popular with bees and butterflies and then add similar varieties to your yard. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

This June 10, 2015 photo shows a honeybee about to descend on a blackberry blossom growing near Langley, Wash. Hundreds of flowers, shrubs, trees and vines can be used to sustain pollinators. Take a walk around the neighborhood to determine which blooms are the most popular with bees and butterflies and then add similar varieties to your yard. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Pollinator Pockets: small plots with nectar-rich plants

It doesn’t take massive flowerbeds to make beneficial insects happy — just a few pollen- and nectar-rich plants in a small area, a “pollinator pocket.”

Common areas such as roadsides, schoolyards and parks make good candidates for pollinator pockets. So do idled corners of farm fields.

“A lot of people think that when you plant things for insects that they won’t be pretty. They’ll look wild,” said Sandra Mason, an extension horticulturist with the University of Illinois in Champaign. “But by selecting certain plants, you can have beauty and help out pollinators as well.”

Lack of space need not be a problem.

“Four- to 6-foot ovals or 24 square feet are large enough and doable,” Mason said. “They don’t cost a lot of money and they’re easy to maintain.”

And although pollinator pockets may be small, they make a big impact when linked.

“In the scheme of things, one 4-by-6-foot pocket doesn’t matter,” Mason said. “But it does if the entire neighborhood works together. Communities become acres.”

Bees, whose numbers have declined dramatically in recent years, need pollen and nectar to survive. Cover and nesting sites also are important, so think four-season and succession gardening while planting.

“Select plants that are early, mid-summer and late-season flowering,” Mason said. “Leave the stems up when they quit blooming. Mason bees will use the old stems for laying their eggs and for overwintering. They also provide cover for the birds and the bees.”

Leave the plants standing for a couple of months after your spring cleanup, she said. Any insects still in there will have a chance to emerge.

Hundreds of flowers, shrubs, trees and vines can be used to sustain pollinators. Check with your county extension office or search the Internet for native varieties. Better yet, wander around and study some blooms, Mason said.

“See which ones are popular with bees and butterflies,” she said.

The agricultural sector also plays a big role in the pollinator-pocket movement, as do organizations like Pheasants Forever that make wildflower seeds available to farmers.

“It’s tough though,” said Ron Babcock, owner of Babcock Farms, a 160-acre spread near Glenvil, Nebraska, that includes three dozen honeybee hives. “Trying to convince people they don’t have to plant fencerow to fencerow and that they should take some profitable ground out of production (for pollinator pockets) is not an easy sell.”

Babcock has about half his farm planted with crops and the rest set aside for pollinators. He also holds down a day job to keep the operation going.

“I’ve got to make enough off of production to help pay the bills,” he said. “At the same time, I try to encourage people farming like myself to leave a little alfalfa growing along the edges when they harvest. It’s a huge resource for bees.”

Restoring a pollinator population that’s been in steep decline over the past decade or so won’t happen overnight, Babcock said.

“But I think people are becoming more aware. They aren’t arbitrarily spraying herbicides and insecticides anymore. Many are checking with nearby beekeepers first,” he said.

Online:

For more, see this University of Illinois fact sheet with a link to flower garden designs: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/pollinators/4906.html

You can contact Dean Fosdick at deanfosdick@netscape.net

More in Life

Ward off Halloween’s mystical monsters with these garlic-infused cheesy shells and pepper sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tasty Halloween

Keep spooky creatures at bay with garlic-infused shells and pepper sauce.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.