Know your desert pollinators, and the plants they rely on

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Native plants in the Mojave Desert are visited by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. These pollinators are vital to our ecosystem. But they need our help.

Diadasia bee covered in pollen of desert chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) ©Madena Asbell

Native bees

Bees are an incredibly diverse group of insects — the California deserts are home to an estimated 750 native bee species!

Mining bee (Adrenidae) collecting pollen from bladderpod (Peritoma arborea) ©Madena Asbell
Sweat bee (Halictidae) on desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) ©Madena Asbell
Nests of miner bees in Joshua Tree, CA ©Madena Asbell

Bee flies and mimicry

A bee fly getting nectar from Mojave aster flower ©Madena Asbell

Butterflies and moths

Butterflies are some of our most charismatic pollinators. Take the monarch, for instance, with its colorful orange and black markings and epic annual migrations. Most adult butterflies and moths prefer open flowers with a flat surface on which they can land and feed. This includes the daisy-like flowers of Acton encelia and brittlebush, clusters of small flowers like those of east Mojave buckwheat, and many other nectar-rich blossoms. This works out well if you have a straw for a mouth (also known as a proboscis), but what about a butterfly’s leaf-chewing larvae?

Monarch caterpillar munching on a milkweed leaf ©Madena Asbell
Adult female monarch butterfly ©Madena Asbell
Female yucca moth depositing pollen onto a yucca flower. Photo: Sherwin Carlquist


Female Costa’s hummingbird visiting bladderpod flowers ©Madena Asbell
The tubular red flowers of penstemons are a hummingbird favorite ©Madena Asbell