There’s no denying that bees and other insects are vastly important to our lives. From pollinating the bulk of our agriculture crops to benefiting the environment, bees and other beneficial bugs are vital to our way of life. In an effort to protect pollinators like bees and other beneficial insects, one study looked into using flowering ornamental plants to create beneficial insect communities. These communities would act as habitat refuges for insects such as pollinating bees, wasps, and predatory plant bugs.

Studying Ornamental Plants

The team used sweep nets and observation to identify all the different types of bugs that frequent four research plots located on the University of Georgia’s Griffin Campus. The plots were labelled as either “Butterfly” or “Conservation” Gardens, and they included “74 commercially available annual and perennial herbaceous and shrub ornamentals, including exotic and native plant species,” according to a release of the study.

The team found the plots attracted over 30 species of pollinators from over 16 different families and over 20 different species of beneficial insects form over 9 different families. The teams spotted native bees, hoverflies, skippers, predatory plant bugs, and parasitic wasps in both types of the garden plots. Such information suggests that pollinator habitats could be created in landscapes across the Southeast—and likely other parts of the country using plants native and appropriate for each specific region—using flowering ornamentals that best attract pollinators,

Best Ornamental Plants

The team identified a handful of flowering ornamental plants that will work well for habitat refuges for pollinators and other beneficial bugs in the Southeast. The most-visited ornamentals included:

  • Celosia; common name cock’s comb
  • Gaura; common name beeblossom
  • Lantana; in the verbena family
  • Nepetaxfaassenii; common name catmint
  • Agastache; common name hummingbird mint

Researchers believe that “vibrant colors, rich nectar and pollen supply, and the variety of floral inflorescences these plants possess” are likely what attract the beneficial bugs.