Pollinators

Host a Pollinator Party

Whatever your party preferences, a well-planned pollinator party is sure to attract polite, helpful guests who won’t leave a mess. So grab your gloves and digging tools, here’s a step by step guide to hosting a pollinator party.

A guest of honor. 📷 Sabrina Farmer, USFWS

Step 1: Consider the guest list

Before planning your pollinator summer soiree, it’s important to think about what will attract your guests. For pollinators, native flowers are the draw. But, each pollinator has a flower preference (just like not every person would enjoy a silent disco).

A graphic with different pollinators placed on a colored circle. Bees prefer yellow flowers. Birds prefer red flowers. Butterflies prefer purple flowers. Moths prefer white flowers. And flies prefer brown flowers.
Pollinator flower color preferences (generally).

Bees visit parties with bright, fresh smelling flowers. Birds are attracted to red or orange flowers with abundant party juice (aka nectar). Butterflies are like VIPs flying in on helicopters, they require bright flowers with a wide landing pad. Learn more pollination syndromes and expand your guest list.

Step 2: Choose the venue

Where in your area can you grow native flowers? The goal is to increase the number of native plants in our human-made spaces. Consider:

  • Community gardens
  • Window or porch planters
  • Backyard spaces
  • Schools and local businesses
A garden bed along a road in Alaska.
A party in progress at a senior center. 📷 Katrina Liebich, USFWS

Ideally, the party venue will have six or more hours of direct sunlight. Grass lawns are a dud party for pollinators, consider changing lawns into gardens. If you’re starting from a grass lawn, you will need to dig up the grass. Enhancing your garden venue with organic compost may also help to get the party started.

Step 3: Decide what you’re serving

What plants will you use to feed your pollinator guests? Learn about the native plants growing in your area. Visit a local plant nursery for recommendations or look for a native plant society in your area. Use online resources to learn about native plants for your region.

Here in Alaska, these native plant species might be available at local nurseries:

A purple pasqueflower.
American pasqueflower 📷 Robb Hannawacker
Alpine sweetvetch (left 📷 Robb Hannawacker) and Broadleaf Arnica (right 📷 USFWS)
Bunchberry (left) and Blue bells (right) 📷 Kristine Sowl
Mountain larkspur (left 📷 Nate Hartley), Western columbine (center 📷 Peter Pearsall), and Jacob’s ladder (right 📷 Allen Stegemen)
Shooting star (left 📷 Kim Mincer) and Yarrow (right 📷 Peter Pearsall)
Siberian aster (left), Wild iris (center), and Woolly geranium (right) 📷 Kristine Sowl

Keep the festivities going as long as possible by choosing species that bloom throughout the growing season. Variety is the spice of life (and parties) so choose flowers of all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Step 4: Plan the seating arrangement

Decide which plants you want to sit next to one another. Mix the early bloomers and the late bloomers so that your party doesn’t become a snooze midway through.

Want your party photos to look good? Don’t forget to place the shorter plants towards the outside of your garden and the taller plants at the back.

Step 5: Do the dirty work

It’s time to get your hands dirty. Literally. If planting in the ground, dig a hole double the size of the pot and gently place your plant in the soil. Backfill the hole with dirt. If planting seeds, follow the directions on the seed pouch for recommended planting depths. Pay attention to what time of year different flowers prefer to be planted.

Three girl scouts get their hands dirty at a gardening event.
Girl scouts help plant a pollinator garden. 📷Lisa Cox, USFWS

Step 6: Wait for the guests of honor to arrive

Watch your pollinator party flourish throughout the season and years. Different party guests will come and go, from the busy bumble bees, to the regal moths, and gossipy flower flies. If flowers wilt, water the garden. If weeds try to take over, pull them. Maintain a safe space for your guests by avoiding the use of pesticides.

Your guests thank you!

A male rufous hummingbird wears a party hat.
A male rufous hummingbird is dressed to impress. 📷 Jamie Lyons, Rights Reserved
Pollinator Guests. 📷Derek Sikes, Rights Reserved

Written by Sabrina Farmer (Biologist, Ecological Services). Sabrina is a member of the Alaska Pollinator Coordination Group, which aims which aims to raise awareness of, and address, pollinator conservation needs across the state.

In Alaska we are shared stewards of world-renowned natural resources and our nation’s last true wild places. Our hope is that each generation has the opportunity to live with, live from, discover and enjoy the wildness of this awe-inspiring land and the people who love and depend on it.

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Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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