Pollinators and How We Can Support Them

Hummingbird and 3 bees flying to an orange flower

Pollinators play a crucial role in our ecosystems, especially on farms and in gardens. They help plants reproduce by transferring pollen from one flower to another, leading to the production of fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Without pollinators, many of our favorite foods and flowers would not thrive. They are essential for the production of many fruits, vegetables, and nuts and help maintain the biodiversity of plants, which in turn provide food and shelter for various wildlife. Healthy pollinator populations indicate a healthy ecosystem. 

Here are common pollinators visiting our summer gardens and the plants that help support them: 

Bees: The most well-known pollinators, including honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees like mason or carpenter bees, are essential for pollinating a wide range of plants. 

Butterflies: Species like the monarch and swallowtail butterflies add beauty to gardens while helping to pollinate flowers. 

Hummingbirds: These tiny birds are drawn to red and tubular flowers, and their rapid wing movement helps transfer pollen. 

Moths: Nocturnal pollinators like the sphinx moth are important for evening and night-blooming plants. 

Beetles: Various beetles contribute to pollination, particularly of ancient plant species like magnolias and water lilies. 


2 swallowtail butterflies feeding on a pink flower

How to Attract Pollinators: 


Plant a Variety of Flowers: Choose plants that bloom at different times to provide a continuous food source. Native plants are particularly beneficial as they are well-adapted to local pollinators. 

Create Habitats: Leave some areas of your garden a bit wild. Undisturbed patches of soil, dead wood, and leaf litter can provide nesting sites for bees and other pollinators. Set up insect or bee houses.

Avoid Pesticides: If you must use them, opt for organic or natural options and apply them in the evening when pollinators are less active. 

Provide Water Sources: A shallow dish with stones for landing can serve as a drinking spot for pollinators. Hummingbird feeders with nectar encourage hummingbirds to find suitable nest areas near a consistent food source. They will still feed from flowers and insects too.

Plant in Clusters: Grouping the same type of plant together makes it easier for pollinators to find and efficiently pollinate your garden. 

By making your garden more pollinator-friendly, you not only help these necessary visitors but also enhance the beauty and productivity of your own green space. Attracting pollinators to your garden can be greatly enhanced by choosing the right plants. Here’s a guide to specific plants that appeal to different pollinators commonly found in MD and PA: 


  • Sunflowers (Helianthus): Tall and vibrant, sunflowers provide ample pollen and nectar. 
  • Lavender (Lavandula): Aromatic and easy to grow, lavender is a favorite of bees. 
  • Bee Balm (Monarda): This native plant has tubular flowers that bees love. 
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): Native to Maryland, these bright flowers attract a variety of bees. 


  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja): Aptly named, this bush attracts many butterfly species. 
  • Milkweed (Asclepias): Essential for monarch butterflies, milkweed provides food for larvae and nectar for adults. 
  • Zinnias (Zinnia): These colorful annuals are butterfly magnets. 
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea): These flowers provide nectar for butterflies and seeds for birds later in the season. 


  • Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans): The tubular red flowers are perfect for hummingbirds. 
  • Bee Balm (Monarda): Also attractive to hummingbirds with its tubular flowers. 
  • Salvia (Salvia spp.): Hummingbirds are drawn to the bright red and blue varieties. 
  • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis): This native plant has striking red flowers that hummingbirds love. 


  • Evening Primrose (Oenothera): Blooms at dusk, providing nectar for nighttime pollinators like moths. 
  • Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa): These flowers open in the late afternoon and evening, perfect for moths. 
  • Moonflower (Ipomoea alba): Large white blooms that open at night are highly attractive to moths. 


  • Magnolia (Magnolia spp.): These ancient plants attract beetles for pollination. 
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin): Native and beneficial, it attracts both beetles and butterflies. 
  • Goldenrod (Solidago): Provides nectar for beetles and a variety of other pollinators in the late summer and fall. 


By planting these specific flowers and shrubs, you’ll create a welcoming environment for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and beetles, ensuring your garden is buzzing with activity and beauty.   

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