Since 1971, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has been working to educate about and advocate for conservation of invertebrates, not just bees and butterflies, but other species such as mussels, starfish and crabs. For some years the website has been a necessary resource for anyone interested, as I am, in helping our native pollinators. Now the Xerces Society has published an outstanding handbook, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies (Storey Publishing, 2011).
In my opinion, a copy of this book should be available to, and consulted by, anyone who manages a piece of land, whether measured in square feet or thousands of acres. If you are responsible for and care for a backyard garden, school garden, park, farm, or reserve, this book is for you. If you are a fan of Douglas Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, or garden according to the permaculture principles espoused in Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden or H.C. Flores’ Food Not Lawns, this book is for you. If you garden for birds or wildlife, or are a landscape designer, this book is for you. And if you are interested in reconciliation ecology or are planning a perennial border, raingarden or bioswale this book is for you, as well. A strong encomium? Yes, and here’s why:
A website, no matter how well designed, always reminds me of a cafeteria–accessible, convenient, voluminous. Sometimes, though, you want a thoughtfully-served meal–with clearly organized, sequential courses that form a coherent whole. Such is Attracting Native Pollinators. Meant to serve as a useful reference, it is written in a clear style that strikes a balance between the technical and the popular. As such, it is perfect for members of the general audience who may know a little about bees and butterflies, would like to learn more and implement solutions, but don’t necessarily need specialist knowledge. Kudos to the authors. It is well-researched, well illustrated, and includes plenty of practical examples of ways land managers can incorporate pollinator conservation into their planning and management. It also tells where to go for more detailed, technical information, if needed.
The book is divided into four parts, with an appendix. “Pollinators and Pollination,” is an overview which explains why we should care about pollinators, who they are, and the threats against them. “Taking Action” discusses all the ways pollinator conservation can be achieved, whether in city or country. Businesses, park districts and highway departments take note! “Bees of North America” is an illustrated guide to the important bee families. This feature alone makes it valuable to me, something of a newcomer to spotting and recognizing distinct species. “Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape” includes suggestions for nearly every situation and useful lists of plants, including a section on common butterflies and larval host plant recommendations. Finally, the Appendix includes ideas for educators and parents, a handy glossary, and a deep selection of further resources, both on and off the web.
My backyard is an ecological garden full of native plants. The pocket “pollinator reserve” back near the alley already provides habitat for many pollinators, who seem to know a good place to set up housekeeping when they encounter one. Reading this book has helped me better understand who they are, why they show up, and how to further enhance their habitat. It is a worthwhile addition to every gardener’s bookshelf.
Note: This review is unsolicited. Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies is by Eric Mader, Matthew Shepherd, Mace Vaughan, Scott Hoffman Black and Gretchen LeBuhn, with an introduction by Dr. Marla Spivac. It is available here at the Xerces Society website, with a discount for members.