Hover fly on a Calendula flower at Koiner Farm. Hover fly adults are great pollinators and their larva are efficient predators of aphids, providing double the benefits to the farm - woo-woo!
Pollinator Week is June 20th - June 26th!
What's the big deal with pollinators?
Nearly all our food comes, either directly or indirectly, from flowering plants. Flowering plants are the most diverse group of terrestrial plants, with more than 300,000 known species. The evolution and diversification of flowering plants is inseparable from the evolution of the insects and other animals that pollinate them. Though some flowering plants rely mainly on wind-blown pollen, including grasses that supply our cereal grains, the importance of pollinators to our overall food supply is immense.
Why does Koiner Farm care about pollinators?
The most common pollinators at Koiner Farm are bees (both honey bees and native bees), flies, moths and butterflies. Pollinators rely on pollen and/or nectar from flowers for their food. Plants provide sugary nectar and nutrient rich pollen in exchange for the pollinators carrying pollen from flower to flower, and helping the plants reproduce - which is to say, form fertile seeds. Even plants like tomatoes and peppers that can self-pollinate, benefit from the movement of pollen caused by visiting insects.
Take a Pollinator Tour
This self-guided tour takes you all around Koiner Farm by following ten numbered stations. The tour starts at the farm's large tulip poplar tree near the farmstand on Easley Street - you can't miss it!
Please take photographs of anything that catches your eye along the tour and post to Facebook or Instagram with the tag:
The Self-Guided Pollinator Tour at Koiner Farm:
* PLEASE watch your step along the tour and remember, Koiner Farm is a working farm with inherent risks, such as uneven ground, low hanging branches, rusty fences, and, of course, bees!
Start: Pollinator Information Display...
The tour starts at the pollinator information display board under the canopy. After perusing the display, continue to Station #1, which is just to the right.
Station #1: The Tulip Poplar tree...
A large tree might not be the first type of pant that you associate with pollinators, but trees are very important to pollinators. The tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a common tree in our area. Despite the name, tulip poplars aren't poplars at all. The tulip poplar is in the magnolia family and is part of a genus that only has two species - the others are found in China.
Many trees use energy that is stored from the previous fall to produce flowers in early spring, even before they grow new leaves. These flowers are a vital source of food for pollinators who are hungry after a long winter. Honey bees, native bees, and hummingbirds all visit tulip poplar flowers early in the year. Tulip poplar honey is a rich, reddish brown color.
In addition to providing food to adult pollinators, tulip poplars are also host plants for moth and butterfly caterpillars, including the tulip tree silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera) and one of the host plants for tiger swallowtail caterpillars (Papilio glaucus). When you see a tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding at a flower later in the summer, remember the tulip poplar that was essential for its caterpillar stage.
Tulip tree silkmoth
Tulip poplar flower
Station #2: Squash and more...
Right next to the tulip poplar is Koiner Farm’s bed-14, which this year is growing squash plants that are beginning to bloom. The large yellow squash blossoms attract many pollinators, including bees, flies and beetles.
Squashes (including pumpkins and gourds) are a crop native to the Americas that require a pollinator. Each plant has separate male and female flowers. Pollinators move pollen from male to female flowers, which is where the squash begin to grow.
While honeybees are often seen at the flowers, there are also native specialist bees of two genera - Peponapis and Xenoglossa, often called "squash bees." Squash bees are non-social, ground nesting bees that specialize in pollen of squash and related species (called cucurbits). They forage early in the morning before honey bees are active, and may pollinate most of the new flowers each day before the honeybees arrive. Even so, the honeybees benefit from the pollen they get from the numerous squash blossoms.
There are squash in other beds around the farm as you continue the tour. By the way, the foil wrapped around the lower stem is to protect the squash plant from an insect called the squash vine borer.
Beyond the squash bed is a bed of blackberries. The lavender flowers on tall stems are native Monarda (often called bee balm). The blackberries were pollinated weeks ago, and the berries are ripening now. Monarda and other flowers continue to feed the bees, so there will be plenty next year to pollinate the berries again.
Continue by walking to the right around the trees and up to the edge of the first bed that has low hoop tunnels over lettuce and other greens.
Male and female squash bees
Female squash blossoms
Station #3: Marigolds and Calendula are supporting flowers...
In addition to the vegetable crops we grow at Koiner Farm, we have other plants that provide support functions. Flowers like the orange Marigolds and bright yellow Calendula (also called Pot Marigold, because the flowers are edible), help feed the pollinators and other beneficial insects, like small predatory wasps that help control some common crop pest insects.
Continue the tour by walking up the right side of the bed toward the garage. As you head up to Station 4, the honeybee hives to the right of the garage, you may notice some small sage and rosemary plants at the front edge of the next bed up the hill. When these perennial herbs get established, their flowers will attract and feed beneficial insects, including pollinators.
Station #4: The honeybees' corner...
Honeybees (Apis mellifera) may be the first pollinator you think of, but as widespread and important as they are, they are an introduced species, coming from Europe.
Honeybees are social bees, unlike most native bees, which are solitary. Honeybees build colonial nests from wax, and produce honey as a stored energy source for the colony. In addition to honey, humans also use the honeybee’s wax for use in making candles, soap, lip balms, and various cosmetics.
Koiner Farm has several hives that are maintained by a professional beekeeper, and honey from the bees is for sale. You may see the bees flying to and from the hives throughout the day, and visiting flowers around the farm.
Continue the tour, walking west past the front of the garage and the north side of the high tunnel greenhouse, just past the peach tree, to Station 5. Through the side of the greenhouse, you can see the bright yellow blossoms of cucumbers (in the squash family). Notice the white blooms of clover in the grass here. Pollinators love these little flowers.
Apiarist at work
Station #5: A triangle of borage and comfrey...
Here, in the upper center part of the farm, we have several important pollinator support plants. The peach tree provides early blossoms to feed bees in the spring. Under the peach tree look for the spiny leaves and white seed heads of sowthistle. Thistles are often thought of as troublesome weeds, but many are very high value for pollinators and other wildlife.
Across from the peach tree is a small bed with a few bright orange day lilies and two flowering herbs, borage (with blue star-shaped flowers) and comfrey, that support pollinators in the summer.
Borage has a long flowering period in the middle of the year, which makes it one of the bees’ most popular plants during this period.
The adjacent bed, which is fenced to keep deer out, is growing peppers, tomatoes and okra this year. Peppers and tomatoes can self-pollinate, but pollinator insects increase pollination success and cross-pollination between plants.
Bonus: Some of the fence posts around this bed are beautifully painted by local artists.
Continue the tour walking west between the fenced bed and the grapevines. Look for Station 6 just past the netted blueberry bushes.
Station #6: Blueberries and blackberries ...
Bees provide pollination to many crops, including blueberries and blackberries. Bees collect pollen and nectar from blossoms and move pollen from flower to flower as they visit. Pollination is a mutually beneficial relationship where bees gather nectar or pollen, the blossoms get pollinated, and we get delicious berries, if the birds don’t get them first!
The next station is just a few feet away, a little closer to the street.
Station #7: Native plantings...
New to the farm this year is a plot of native plants to attract and support pollinators. While many food crops are annual plants that live their full life cycle in one year, native plants are often perennials. These perennials often take 2-3 years to get established and begin to bloom. They will also spread to fill the bed, and we expect this to be a thriving pollinator habitat in a couple of years.
In addition to providing flowers for pollinator food, some of the native plants will be host plants for insect caterpillars. The plants include goldenrod, butterfly milkweed, ten-petal sunflower, sun drops, and common copperleaf.
Continue to Station 8 near the farm sign along Grove Street.
Station #8: Grove Street herbs and hollyhocks...
The colorful hollyhocks are a common perennial garden flower that provide long lasting blooms for pollinators. Hollyhocks are in the mallow family. Later in the summer when the okra flowers, you might see a similarity, as okra is also in the mallow family.
More borage here too - such a great pollinator plant.
Continue by walking back toward the deer fenced bed, past the water faucet at the SW corner, to Station 9. To the left, inside the fence, are the small okra plants.
Station #9: Hardy kiwi...
The large green mound before you is a female hardy kiwi plant. Much smaller male plants are tucked in around the edges.
The kiwi fruit found in grocery stores is from a tropical vine that will not survive the winters in our climate zone. The hardy kiwi is a related species, and produces small fruit about the size of a large grape. As you can see from this thriving plant, hardy kiwi overwinters here just fine.
Unlike squash, which have male and female flowers on the same plant, the male and female flowers of the kiwi are on different plants, so to have fruit, both plants are required. For several years, the large female plant here did not have a male companion and there was no fruit. Now a male plant is established, and fruit is being produced. Look for it hanging in small bunches among the leaves
Kiwi is pollinated by bees that must visit flowers from both male and female plants. The number of seeds in a kiwi fruit is a function of how much pollen the flower received.
Continue around the east side of the kiwi to Station 10.
Hardy kiwi blossoms
Hardy kiwi fruits
Station #10: More trees and seeds for next year...
In front (toward the tulip poplar) are Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) trees, which, like the tulip poplar and peach trees at the farm, provide essential food for early season pollinators, especially bees, with their profuse magenta blossoms (which also are edible).
To the right is a persimmon tree, which is pollinated by bees.
To the left is a small fig tree. Koiner Farm has several fig trees of different varieties. Some varieties of figs require pollination by tiny, specialized fig wasps, but most common fig varieties, like those at Koiner Farm, don’t require pollination by insects.
If you look behind the fig tree to the end of the garden bed, you’ll find 4 petaled white and pink blossoms reaching up through the tunnel cover. This is a radish, which we saved from harvest to let it develop seeds which we will collect for next year. Honeybees often visit the flowers. Radish is a great example of a plant that doesn’t need pollinators to develop the root that we eat, but does need pollinators to create the next generation of seeds.
Thank you for taking the Koiner Farm Self-Guided Pollinator Tour!
We hope you will join us again at the farm on Sunday, June 26th from noon-1:00 for a picnic under the tulip poplar tree and a special demonstration by Galen Tromble on how to create a flowering pot for you balcony that is sure to attract pollinators all summer long!
Cap off Pollinator Week with a Pollinator Picnic and Demo
Saturday, June 26th, 12:00-1:00pm
Pack your bag lunch and walk over to Koiner Farm for a short demo with Amy Rueman (Master Gardener and one of Koiner Farm's Assistant Managers), as she talks about the perfect pollinator plants for pots!
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