The ECHO Florida Seed Bank offers a wide variety of useful crops, many of which naturally attract pollinators (Fig. 3). Encouraging beneficial insects in your garden is a key component in promoting biodiversity, controlling unwanted pests and increasing pollination of your crops.
If you live in the tropics, you may have noticed that plants that are normally self- or wind-pollinated in cooler climates are often heavily visited by bees, wasps and other insects. Insect activity can result in some crossing, even between plants of a mostly self-pollinating crop. If you are growing plants for seed, therefore, you may need to isolate varieties. For the most part, though, the heightened insect activity is a great benefit of living where it is hot and humid.
Tips and Suggestions:
Allow plants to go to seed that you normally wouldn’t. On ECHO’s demonstration farm, for example, we have noticed that this works well with plants in the Brassica family (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, mustard, cabbage, etc.). Interestingly, the flowers of many brassicas are “self-incompatible,” meaning that fertilization can only occur when pollen is transferred between flowers from different plants. Pollen transfer between brassica plants occurs primarily through the activity of bees because the pollen of brassicas is heavy and sticky, making it unlikely to disperse in the wind. With their hairy bodies, bees are uniquely able to collect and transfer brassica pollen as they forage for nectar. A few other plants that attract beneficial insects when they go to seed are lettuce (Lactuca spp.), onions (Allium cepa) and carrots (Daucus carota).
Plant local, indigenous flowering plants. They may look like weeds, but the naturally-occurring plants in any given area are likely to be very attractive to resident insects, and could be grown to bring pollinators into local gardens. Select indigenous plants that are attractive to pollinators and that will not become weedy.
Plant a variety of flower colors, as insects are attracted to certain colors (see previous article in this issue ).
ECHO Florida Seed Bank plants that attract pollinators:
Fruit Trees are often pollinated by insects and draw a variety of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and bats. ECHO has starfruit/carambola (Averrhoa carambola), loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), annonas (Annona spp.), tamarind (Tamarindus indica), strawberry tree (Muntingia calabura), Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora), papaya (Carica papaya) and others. Not only do these trees attract pollinators – they also depend on insects to transfer pollen for fruit production.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). ECHO has several unique varieties of sunflower that will bring both beauty and busy insects to your garden.
Pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) flowers are very attractive to bees. The plant is perennial and drought tolerant, producing forage for animals and legumes for human consumption. Pigeon pea grows into a large, tree-like shrub and fixes nitrogen for improved soil fertility.
Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is grown and used for its leaves (as a source of edible greens) or fleshy calyces (to make juice), but this annual shrub from the hibiscus family also produces showy pink flowers that insects love. Other vegetables in this family (Malvaceae) that attract insects are okra, cranberry hibiscus, jute mallow and kenaf.
Herbs do a wonderful job of bringing in a diverse population of beneficial insects. The ECHO Florida Seed Bank offers basil (Ocimum basilicum), oregano (Origanum vulgare), dill (Anethum graveolens), parsley (Petroselinum crispum) and cilantro (Coriandrum sativum).
To Order Seeds:
Log on to www.ECHOcommunity.org and register as a member. Individual Premium members and Active Development Worker members can view the seed catalog by clicking on the tab “Plants & Seeds” on the left hand side of the screen. Choose “ECHO Global Seedbank” and then “Order Seeds.” Search for plants by scientific name, common name or crop type. We also offer five seed bundles for specific regions and situations. Add the items you want to your cart and then go through the check-out process. If you are an Active Development Worker, use the “Contact Us” button to ask about free packets of seeds.
Sobetski, H. 2014. ECHO Plants that Attract Pollinators. ECHO Development Notes no. 125