Book Review: Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat

How can we save the world? Simple. Get everyone to read and understand the contents of a new book, Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide to Conserving North American Bees and Butterflies and Their Habitat. Why? There’s the obvious–pollinating insects provide a huge amount of our food–but they also have a few unappreciated roles.

Without pollinators, plant communities that stabilize river banks disappear. Mammals and birds that eat pollinated fruits perish. But perhaps most importantly, by raising awareness of the needs of pollinating insects we can better appreciate the damage we cause through the use of pesticides. Do we really want to live in a toxic world? A world, like China’s Sichuan Province, so choked with poison that apple farmers have to climb ladders to hand pollinate trees?

And we’re not just talking about honeybees. Attracting Native Pollinators delves into the fascinating world of native bees, bumblebees, wasps, moths and flies, providing a detailed guide on how to tell these species apart, what their nests look like and, most importantly, practical steps that everyone from a homeowner to a golf course manager can take to improve habitat. For instance, one of the most important things we can all do is simply to provide areas of open, sunny ground for pollinating species, such as bumblebees, that nest underground.

You’ll also find instructions for building nesting blocks for native bees and subterranean boxes for bumblebees. There’s also extensive plant lists for North America including both native and common non-native garden plants such as rosemary.

In our own garden we’ve planted a lot more flowering native perennials this year. But I’m also inspired to get a conversation going about creating more habitat for pollinators in public spaces. Los Angeles is full of space that could be planted with drought tolerant, flowering plants to replace the thousands of acres of lawn (mowed weeds, really) and Home Depot hedges. Think about the habitat we could create with all those barren parkways. Who’s in to help? Let’s pollinate a revolution.

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  1. I never thought of all the insects you mentioned a pollinators. My town has beautified the area beside the railroad tracks that run right through town. They do have lawn there, but it is aglow with wisteria and all sorts of flowering plants, bulbs, and perennials. They even ripped up sidewalk downtown for flower beds. Native? I don’t know.

    If you want bumblebees, wisteria is the best attractor. Take this information from someone who has wisteria on three sides of the yard, from 6′ to 30′ high. I am overrun in the spring with swarms of bumblebees. I have been terrified of them for the last 30 years I have lived here and vaguely wondered where they went every year. The neighbors thought I had lost my mind when I sowed clover in my lawn when I first moved here. How else were my children going to learn the lessons the lessons of my childhood that came from stepping barefoot on bees? My friends thought I was crazy to deliberately introduce a hazard.

    My neighbor informed me that she was going to kill every last insect in her yard because she hated bugs. She said they would spend every bit they had to to poison their yard. She hated bugs. Thankfully, she moved. Otherwise, the slight dip from her yard to mine would have my yard saturated in the same chemicals.

  2. Oops. I read the title wrong. I thought it said “Attractive Native Pollinators,” and I was thinking “in whose opinion?”

  3. This sounds like an interesting book! There is also a research group up at UC Berkley looking at how to structure “bee gardens” in urban settings. They have a website about the best California native (and non-native) plants to attract native bee populations. I think they might also have opportunities for citizen scientists to help with their project. Here’s the website:

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