Insects are attracted to landscapes where flowering plants of the same species are grouped together and create big blocks of color, according to new research.
“Insect populations are declining, and homeowners are often asking how they can help insects and specifically pollinators in their yards and gardens. In this study, we found that selecting a handful of flowering plant species known to attract insects, and then grouping like with like, maximizes the number of insects visiting the area,” says senior author Jaret Daniels, curator at the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and a professor in the University of Florida/IFAS entomology and nematology department.
“An insect isn’t like a kid in a candy store who wants one of every kind of treat, or in this case, flower. They want to find a location with lots of what they really like—a one-stop shop,” says Daniels.
“Insects don’t want to travel all over to find flowers because that costs time and energy,” says Elizabeth Braatz, first author of the study, which was completed while she was a master’s student in entomology and nematology.
“We think that a big mass of blooms is like a billboard for insects that says ‘come here for food and resources!’ And like a billboard on the highway, it’s hard to miss a bunch of flowers that are all alike, even more so if they produce a fragrance that’s attractive to insects,” Braatz says.
To attract insects, homeowners are often encouraged to use a variety of plant species in the landscape. This study adds to this recommendation, showing that a balance of variety and abundance can maximize the benefit to insects.
“You still want to have enough variety so that insects that prefer specific flower types are more likely to find something to their liking,” Daniels says. “Based on our findings, we recommend that homeowners select five or six types of flower plants known to attract pollinators and insects and group them by species.”
The study’s authors gained these insights into insect behavior by surveying 34 home landscapes in suburban Gainesville, Florida, for a little under two years. Every three months, the researchers visited each property to count and identify every plant, flower, and insect found there.
By the end of this painstaking process, the team had counted 774 plant species, 34,972 insects, and 485,827 blooms.
The research appears in the journal PeerJ.
A grant from the Florida Wildflower Foundation supported the research.
Source: University of Florida