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The Best Plants to Attract Pollinators, by Region

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The Best Plants to Attract Pollinators, by Region
Purple coneflower. Jmeeter / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Brian Barth

The first of those is straightforward enough, and the second two are taken care of by planting nectar-rich flowers that bloom over a long period of the year. The foliage itself provides habitat—most insect pollinators like dense vegetation in which they can hide from predators and lay eggs—and the flowers provide the fuel. Plants native to your area are the best bet because they have co-evolved with the native pollinators.


The more diverse your plantings, the better, as some species are very picky. To get you started, here are a few ideas for pollinator plants native to each area of the country. Peruse the list below, and add your favorites to your garden planning list. Want more information? Extensive regional guides can be found at pollinator.org, a project of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. They even have a handy app.

Northwest

Silver Lupine (Lupinus albifrons)
Flowers: blue/purple, April-May
Size/Type: 3' tall x 3' wide shrub
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees

Hairy Honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula)
Flowers: pink, June-August
Size/Type: 10' tall vine
Sun/Water: part shade, medium water
Attracts: hummingbirds

Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis)
Flowers: yellow, April-June
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: part shade, medium-high water
Attracts: bees

Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)
Flowers: white, April-June
Size/Type: 20' feet tall x 15' wide tree
Sun/Water: part shade, medium-high water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Flea Bane (Erigeron spp.)
Flowers: various colors, June-August
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Southwest

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)
Flowers: red-orange, February-May
Size/Type: 10' tall x 10' wide shrub
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: hummingbirds

Parry's Agave (Agave parryi)
Flowers: yellow, June-August
Size/Type: 2' x 2' perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees, hummingbirds, moths, bats

Jimson Weed (Datura wrightii)
Flowers: white, May-October
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: moths

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia spp.)
Flowers: yellow, April-June
Size/Type: 6' tall x 6' wide succulent
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees

Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
Flowers: green/yellow, March-August
Size/Type: 30' tall x 20' wide tree
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Midwest

Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Flowers: yellow/orange, May-July
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, medium water
Attracts: butterflies, hummingbirds

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Flowers: purple, June-August
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, medium water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Sumac (Rhus spp.)
Flowers: white, April-August
Size/Type: 8' tall x 8' wide shrub
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: butterflies, bees

Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)
Flowers: white, June-September
Size/Type: 6' tall x 6' wide
Sun/Water: full sun, medium-high water
Attracts: bees

Wild Indigo (Baptisia spp.)
Flowers: blue/purple, March-June
Size/Type: 4' tall x 4' wide
Sun/Water: part sun, medium-low water
Attracts: bees

Southeast

Threadleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Flowers: yellow, May-July
Size/Type: 2' tall x 2' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis)
Flowers: purple/blue, May-June
Size/Type: 3' tall x 3' wide perennial
Sun/Water: part sun, low water
Attracts: butterflies, hummingbirds

Passion Flower Vine (Passiflora incarnata)
Flowers: multi-colored, May-July
Size/Type: 10' tall vine
Sun/Water: full sun, medium water
Attracts: hummingbirds, butterflies

Painted Buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica)
Flowers: white, April-May
Size/Type: 12' tall x 12' wide shrub
Sun/Water: shade, medium-high water
Attracts: bees, hummingbirds

Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora)
Flowers: yellow, July-October
Size/Type: 3' tall x 3' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, low water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Northeast

Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Flowers: white, May-June
Size/Type: 6" tall x 6' wide groundcover
Sun/Water: part sun, low water
Attracts: bees

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Flowers: red, August-October
Size/Type: 3' tall x 3' wide perennial
Sun/Water: part sun, high water
Attracts: bees, hummingbirds

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Flowers: yellow, June-September
Size/Type: 2' tall x 1' wide perennial
Sun/Water: full sun, medium water
Attracts: bees, butterflies

Virgin's Bower (Clematis virginiana)
Flowers: white, July-August
Size/Type: 10' tall vine
Sun/Water: part sun, medium-high water
Attracts: bees

Mapleleaf Viburnum (Vibrunum acerifolium)
Flowers: white, May-June
Size/Type: 5' tall x 5' wide shrub
Sun/Water: part sun, medium water
Attracts: bees

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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