Thom Smith | Naturewatch: Planting a pollinator garden is a very wise idea

So much is being said about insect pollinators lately, especially the honey bees, bumblebees and other bees numbering something like 20,000 species worldwide. Pollinators also include many flies, a variety of beetles, our lovely butterflies and don't forget numerous moths. Hummingbirds are obvious pollinators, and in some parts of the world, bats pollinate plants that produce food products.

Percentages differ according to which group is offering the information. One group will say 1/3 of global foods require bees, while another source says it is more like 7 percent. Let's take our heads out of the sand, and regardless of the numbers, accept that killing pollinators — bees and et cetera —that are an important part of the ecosystem which we not only rely on, but are a part of, is just dumb.

Being aware of various habitats and the communities we can maintain in our yard is the essence of pollinator gardens. The open habitat is the easiest to copy and naturalize. In these parts, plants (native or cultivars) such as asters, goldenrods, milkweeds (we have three species in our yard), wild bergamot or beebalm, are just a few. Some herbs are especially attractive when in blossom to honeybees and various other pollinators. Try mints, chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary. I know because we always let our herbs grow wild and flower, and offered me an opportunity to enjoy and photograph honey bees and maybe a half dozen other smaller bees I could not name. Oh, and the most important part of making a pollinator garden is no insecticides!

Planting a pollinator garden is a win-win solution. I planted one without even planning to, by adding numerous yellow flowers, attractive to many pollinators, especially bees, and red flowers also attractive to a variety of pollinators, especially hummingbirds and hummingbird moths. In our garden, we also encourage wildflowers, like Queen Anne's lace, (arrived uninvited) and is as pretty as any plant we have purchased at the many garden centers we visit every spring, and several times through the summer.


Q After telling my sister about the following this morning, she suggested I write you since you keep track of various animal happenings in the area.

On Saturday morning, I found a partially eaten woodchuck on my front lawn. I'm not sure if it was killed there, since I didn't see anything else near it. It was suggested it might have been a fisher cat or a bobcat. I don't live near woods, since I live just off South Street, so I don't know where something might have come from.

— Margaret, Pittsfield, Mass.

A You would be surprised at how many mammals prowl our streets during early morning hours, during the daylight hours and at night. While a fisher or a bear may take a woodchuck if the opportunity presents itself, the same may also be true for the fisher and perhaps even a mink, but less so. I would say the predator that took down the woodchuck would be either a bobcat or a coyote; both prowl neighborhoods more often than we suspect. And both are becoming more comfortable around people. Bobcats might even raise a family close by, with kittens discreetly watching us and loosing that innate fear their grandparents had. Not to be overlooked is a large dog. By the way, the fisher neither fishes (although it will not ignore a dead fish along the shore) nor is it a member of the cat family, but a member of the skunk, mink, weasel family. It will take a porcupine, snow shoe hare, and sometimes even a raccoon. Mink have been known to take muskrats, rabbits, so, if hungry enough, why not possibly a woodchuck?

Thom Smith welcomes readers' questions and comments. Email him at or write him care of The Berkshire Eagle, 75 S. Church St., Pittsfield, MA 01201.


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