Our pollinator beds are small plots within the larger Demonstration Garden at the Berks County Agricultural Center. While various pollinator-friendly plants are found throughout our garden, these designated plots contain a specified collection of 10 plants, which are duplicated across the state in about 50 counties participating in a Penn State Pollinator Project.
In each county's Pollinator Garden, Master Gardeners monitor once a week, to count the number of pollinating insects that visit the blossoms of each plant variety, and to identify the insects that visit. Particular attention is focused on honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, and green metallic bees. Data from these pollinator counts is collected and analyzed at year's end.
Currently the monitored species are Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop), Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant), and Helenium autumnale (Helen's flower). Within each species, we are evaluating the "original" straight species as well as two to three cultivars of each, which have been bred by horticulturalists for better bloom, form, size, or other characteristics. The monitoring data should indicate whether cultivars are adequate support plants for pollinating insects, as compared to the straight species.
In 2015, our Pollinator Garden beds will be moving to the east side of the Ag Center building, to the border of a newly-created vegetable garden. This location will provide more consistent sunlight for the sun-loving species being monitored, and will provide space for expansion as the Penn State Pollinator Project progresses.