You want to know all this about host plants!

In this article we are going to talk about host plants. These plants are extremely important to our ecosystem. They provide food for bees, butterflies, insects and all kinds of other organisms. And we can’t do without that. If you want to contribute to more biodiversity yourself, then host plants are a good addition to your garden, but before you get started, we would like to tell you more about them.

What are host plants?

The word host plant is derived from the word ‘host’, or the host in the inn who provides his guests with a snack and a drink. Host plants do the same thing, as it were, they take care of their guests – bees, butterflies, insects and all kinds of other organisms – through their flowers and leaves. However, not every plant that provides food for insects and butterflies is immediately a host plant. You only call a plant a host plant if it is necessary for the development of the insect or butterfly.

In addition to food, host plants also provide shelter or, more accurately, nesting sites. The insects lay their eggs on the plant they need and as soon as the eggs hatch, the larvae and caterpillars can feed themselves.

Nettle is an important host plant for butterflies. The caterpillars of the Atalanta, the Map card, the Little Fox, the Peacock Eye and the Distelvlinder, among others, need the nettle to grow into butterflies. The bell bee, on the other hand, is dependent on the Campanula and a butterfly such as the lime pintail is dependent on the lime tree. We would like to explain a number of plants in more detail.

Foto met kolibrievlinder op waardplanten
Pexels - David Bartus

Host plants for butterflies

The Butterfly Bush is so called because this plant attracts many butterflies. The plant flowers from July to September and can reach a height of about three metres. To keep it good you have to prune it heavily in April. The plant is especially for pollination by butterflies, and it does this in a smart way. A flower that has not yet been pollinated has a yellow heart. This is clearly visible to the butterflies. After pollination, the heart turns red, a color that insects can hardly see. The plant is less suitable for saving rare species because they need other host plants.

Queen’s herb grows in moist places, for example along the water, in reed beds or in a moist forest. The flowering time is from July to September. The flowers produce a lot of nectar and attract bees as well as butterflies.

The Margriet is a plant that is especially common on grasslands that are mowed. They bloom in June, so it is best to mow after that. By the way, the Ordinary Margriet is also included in the ecobomb seed package from Guerilla Gardeners. With this you turn your garden into a sea of flowers.

For the birds

Host plants for birds include Ivy and Clematis. The Ivy is a plant that many people know. It is a plant that stays green all year round and grows up against walls, chimneys, fences and trees. The plant does well in moist, nutrient-rich soil. In autumn, the plant is a rich source of nectar and pollen, because few other plants are in bloom then. In winter and spring, the berries are loved by many bird species.

The clematis is also a climbing plant. The stems find their way up along other plants or support points. The flowering period extends from May to September. In the Netherlands you will mainly find the clematis (Clematis vitalba) and the Italian clematis (Clematis viticella). The plant is a calcareous plant.

Host for beneficial insects

Host for beneficial insects

Host plants for bees, wasps and beetles

Ornamental onions are fine host plants for bees, wasps and beetles. This is a bulbous plant that flowers mainly in spring. The plant does well in the sun and in partial shade. The flowers of the ornamental onion are beautifully colorful and full of nectar. You can order ornamental onions from Marvy Green.

The difference with food plants

Host plants and food plants do not care much about each other. After all, they both provide food for insects and butterflies. The difference lies in whether they really need the plant for their growth. They really depend on some plants, so those are the host plants. They eat other plants mainly as an addition to their diet, which are the food plants. In principle, every plant provides food, but it is not all equally tasty and sometimes the insects and butterflies simply cannot reach it.

And what exactly are melliferous plants?

A gestation plant is also called a nectar plant. It mainly supplies nectar and pollen to bees and butterflies. The pollen sticks to the legs and when the bees and butterflies land on another plant, they pollinate it with that pollen. Without this method of pollination, gestation plants cannot survive. The bees also take the pollen to the nest, which the larvae eat from. So you can actually say that the plants and the insects need each other. This cooperation is also called symbiosis.

The importance of native organic plants and seeds

Host plants are therefore very important to maintain the insect and butterfly population. These plants are actually always indigenous and therefore occur naturally in the Netherlands.

It is best to choose organic plants and seeds. No pesticides are used for these plants and seeds, so they cannot harm insects and butterflies. This is urgently needed because poison is used in many places in the Netherlands. Poison has the greatest impact on bees and even a small amount of poison affects all bees’ learning and navigation abilities. In addition, after exposure to the poison, they lay fewer eggs and the immune system is suppressed. So do you really want to contribute to biodiversity? Always choose organic.

Have fun planting your favorite host plants!

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