Penn State researchers promote pollinator-friendly native gardens

Oct 19, 2009
Photo: Annemarie Mountz

( -- Across the country, pollinators such as honeybees and hummingbirds are declining due to habitat loss, diseases such as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), pests and excessive pesticide use. Penn State researchers and educators are hoping to help combat these issues by promoting ways home gardeners can help pollinator populations thrive.

New demonstration gardens featuring have been established recently at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center and the new Arboretum at Penn State. Nancy Ostiguy, associate professor of entomology, and other researchers at Penn State helped design the new gardens.

"The gardens include plants native to Pennsylvania, because they are four times more attractive to pollinators," she said. "We also chose plants that have a variety of flower shapes to attract different types of pollinators, and planted them in clusters of the same type to help pollinators find them."

Pollinators are so important because they are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat, said Diana Cox-Foster, Penn State professor of entomology and co-chair of a national working group of CCD researchers.

"Over 80 percent of all flowering plants depend on our pollinators for survival," she said.

Even before the discovery of CCD, pollinators were in decline. According to Cox-Foster, four species of are going extinct, and over 50 pollinator species are threatened or endangered. In addition, wild honeybee populations have dropped 25 percent since 1990. "Our pollinators need increased pollen diversity to help bolster their resistance to disease, pesticides and other stresses. Establishing native plant gardens will have a big impact on pollinator health."

In addition to the native plant gardens being established on campus, Penn State Master Gardeners are reaching out to gardeners across the state to help them plant native gardens through a project funded by ice cream manufacturer Haagen Dazs. The program focuses on encouraging homeowner to add plants to the landscape that provide food and shelter for pollinators.

According to Ginger Pryor, extension associate in horticulture and state Master Gardener coordinator, 48 demonstration gardens have been established across the state to educate homeowners so they can have their property certified as pollinator friendly.

"To be certified, homeowners will need implement pollinator friendly practices such as planting native flowering plants, provide nesting sites for , eliminate pesticides when possible, and provide water," Pryor said.

In addition, Dennis vanEngelsdorp, senior extension associate and State Apiarist for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, also is working with master gardeners at 20 of the demonstration gardens as part of a foraging bee survey. The goal of the project is to estimate the native bee density and diversity by selective trapping.

"The PDA bee inspection program has been doing solitary bee survey intensely for four years and has now identified over 400 species in Pennsylvania," said vanEngelsdorp. "The current effort funded by Haagen Dazs is meant to look at which pollinator plants attract the most and/or greatest variety of bees."

He also is testing different bee monitoring methods and looking to expand the program next year and develop an online bee identification guide.

Also hoping to have an impact on pollinator populations is the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which recently received a Natural Resource Conservation Service award to partner with Penn State researchers to develop on-farm pollinator habitats.
"Providing additional forage and refuge through on-farm natural habitat is widely recognized as important for enhancing pollinator health, diversity and abundance," Cox-Foster said.

The Xerces Society will work with Penn State to standardize pollinator seed mixes to ensure that pollinator plantings don't compete with the primary crop. Similarly, these pollinator plantings need to be composed of species that will not become weeds in the primary crop and they should not serve as alternate hosts of crop pests and diseases.

More information: For more information on research at Penn State, visit

Provided by Pennsylvania State University (news : web)

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bumblebees dive in to fill a void

Sep 02, 2009

Native pollinators such as these fat, fuzzy bumblebees, once an overlooked sideshow in the insect world, are gaining widespread appreciation among everyone from backyard gardeners to big-time farmers. That's because European ...

Pollinator decline not reducing crop yields just yet

Nov 10, 2008

( -- The well-documented worldwide decline in the number of bees and other pollinators is not, at this stage, limiting global crop yields, according to the results of an international study published ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

( —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

( —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

( —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.