Where are all the butterflies and pollinators ?

Asked July 10, 2020, 5:07 AM EDT

I have a diverse native pollinator garden and only see bumblebees and a few small pollinators. I was told the erratic spring temperatures was to blame. You4 thoughts ?

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

The multiple late frosts this year certainly could have played a role in hampering pollinators this year - some are more resilient to cold than others once they emerge from winter dormancy. Additionally, predator-prey interactions can be at work, where some years populations boom or bust based on how well their predators (or parasitoids) have fared. There are naturally-occurring pathogens, like insect-infecting fungi, which may have prospered in the wet, cool conditions of this spring's weather (and the past few springs). The persistent background pressures of pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, and introduced pests (both as direct competitors, pathogens, or predators and indirect as resource destroyers) all play a role in chronic decline of pollinators and other insects.

Miri

Thank you. Doesn't sound promising. Do you still recommend planting natives to encourage pollinators or is it a total loss.

So upsetting.

Best.

Ben

Ben,

Yes, it can be disheartening, but by all means, keep planting natives and a diverse range of plants, as you are doing. This not only helps mitigate some habitat loss but also may help boost nearby native plant populations (in addition to the pollinators) as your plants set seed and their seed is dispersed by wind, birds, etc. Most people also see an uptick in pollinator activity in late summer (~August, September) as many of our larger butterflies are out and about for a final cycle of breeding (they spend the winter as eggs, larvae, or a chrysalis and not adults), and a few are fueling-up for migration. Hummingbirds are also fueling-up for migration, starting right about now. Late-season flowers are also visited by a number of generalist pollinators (solider beetles, wasps, native bees, etc) since they will be the last floral resources available. Members of the Aster family are prominent then - Asters, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Joe-Pye Weed and its relatives, and perennial Sunflowers - and Aster family plants are some of the most noticeably visited of our native perennials. (Mint family being another.)

Miri