Entomologist's Research Highlights Annual Flowers that Attract Pollinators

Entomologist David Smitley's study finds certain annual flower varietals, like Cocktail Brandy begonia, attract pollinators like bees. The research identifies top pollinator-friendly varietals, providing valuable insights for eco-conscious gardeners.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Entomologist's Research Highlights Annual Flowers that Attract Pollinators

Entomologist's Research Highlights Annual Flowers that Attract Pollinators

Entomologist David Smitley from Michigan State University has published research in the Journal of Economic Entomology that suggests certain annual flower varietals, such as Cocktail Brandy begonia, attract pollinators like bees. This finding is significant amidst concerns over pollinator decline in Canada.

Smitley's study observed the visitation habits of pollinators for 25 different varieties of six popular annual flower species. While annual flowers are often considered a "pollinator desert" that do not provide enough nectar and pollen, the research found that some varietals, such as Cocktail Brandy begonia, are more popular among pollinators than previously thought. The top four varietals that attracted pollinators were the begonia varietals Cocktail Brandy and Ambassador Rose Blush, and the impatiens varieties Accent Coral and Super Elfin XP White.

Why this matters: The decline of pollinators has severe implications for food security and ecosystem health, making it essential to identify and promote pollinator-friendly plants. By choosing the right annual flowers, gardeners can contribute to the conservation of pollinators and support biodiversity.

Pollinators play a crucial role in plant reproduction and ecosystem health, allowing plants to thrive and supporting biodiversity. The decline of wild bees in Canada, due to factors such as habitat loss and climate change, is a growing concern. Jason Gibbs, an entomologist at the University of Manitoba, explains, "Pollinators are important to our ecosystem because they let plants have sex... Plants being able to reproduce is the foundation of basically all terrestrial ecosystems." Without pollinators, crops will yield less, trees and bushes cannot grow, and biodiversity and plant health will suffer.

Finding annual flower varietals that attract pollinators can be a challenge for eco-conscious gardeners. Smitley suggests that breeders could make it easier for consumers by documenting a varietal's attractiveness to pollinators and including that information on labels. Breeders could also select for plants attractive to native pollinators, although this may be a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

Smitley offers this advice: "Eco-conscious Canadians who want to plant annual flowers in their garden don't need to go cold turkey, instead, I hope people will make a small change by choosing annual varietals that will feed the bees and their other local pollinators." His research provides valuable insights for gardeners looking to support pollinators while still enjoying the beauty of annual flowers.

Key Takeaways

  • Some annual flowers, like Cocktail Brandy begonia, attract pollinators like bees.
  • Top pollinator-friendly annuals include begonias and impatiens varieties.
  • Pollinator decline threatens food security and ecosystem health.
  • Choosing pollinator-friendly plants supports biodiversity and conservation.
  • Breeders can help by labeling and selecting for pollinator-friendly varieties.