ATHENS, Ga. — Across the state, flowers are blooming and the pollinators are out. A pollinator garden can be a great place for your family to explore, especially during stressful times.
I enjoy walking in my garden during work breaks, and I have seen several native bee species and many types of butterflies around my home.
Below are some ideas for you and your family to stay active while learning outdoors:
Expand your garden. Learn about new plants and see what is available locally. Some pollinator plants, like zinnias, grow best from seed and would be an easy addition. For more ideas, see the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension bulletin, “Eco-Friendly Garden: Attracting Pollinators, Beneficial Insects, and Other Natural Predators” at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Learn the larval plant of a favorite butterfly and add that plant to your garden. Butterflies only lay their eggs on certain plants. For example, Monarchs only lay eggs on milkweed. Having larval plants, as well as flowers for nectar, increases your chances of having those butterflies in your garden. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has information on Georgia butterflies and their host plants at georgiawildlife.com/backyard-butterflies.
Go on a family scavenger hunt. The Great Georgia Pollinator Census website has a scavenger hunt designed for families as well as other educational activities. Save the dates for August 21-22, 2020 for the second annual census. Visit ggapc.org for more information.
Keep a pollinator journal. Which pollinators did you see today? Which plants were they visiting? You can compare your findings to what you see a month from now when the weather is warmer and different plants are blooming. This would be a great time to brush up on your insect-identification skills to have your entire family ready for the census. The Insect Identification and Counting Guide is on the project website along with downloadable practice counting sheets. If you have trouble identifying an insect, contact your local UGA Extension office for help.
Compose an insect haiku. One of my favorite activities to do with young pollinator gardeners is to encourage them to write a haiku about their favorite flower or insect — maybe “An Ode to the Red Wasp.” This could evolve into a family poetry night. Share your work on social media with the hashtag #GApollinators. If you have forgotten the rules of haiku, learn more from the Academy of American Poets at poets.org/glossary/haiku. (P.S. — April is national poetry month.)
Whatever you decide to do, stay safe and enjoy the beauty of the Georgia spring.
For more information on Georgia pollinators, visit extension.uga.edu/topic-areas/timely-topics/pollinators.
–Becky Griffin, University of Georgia