What You Can do
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Pollinators need your help! There is increasing evidence that many pollinators are in decline. However, there are some simple things you can do at home to encourage pollinator diversity and abundance.
1) Plant a Pollinator Garden
2) Build a Bee Box
3) Avoid or Limit Pesticide Use
Pollinator Brochure: Attracting Pollinators to your Garden.
Pollinator Brochure: Attracting Pollinators to your Garden.
Web version (500 KB pdf)
Print version (5.7 MB pdf)
1) Plant a Pollinator Garden. The most obvious need for pollinating species is a diversity of nectar and pollen sources. Consider the following when choosing plants for your garden:
- Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season
- Plant in clumps, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators
- Provide a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators. NAPPC’s Pollinator Syndrome table provides information on the types of flowers that different pollinator groups (bats, hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, etc.) find attractive.
- Whenever possible, choose native plants. Native plants will attract more native pollinators and can serve as larval host plants for some species of pollinators. Check field guides to find out which plants the larval stage of local butterflies eat. Pollinator friendly plants for your area can be found in NAPPC's Ecoregional Planting Guides. Contact your local or state native plant society for help. Information on finding native plants and native plant societies for your area
For more information:
The Pollinator Partnership:
2) Provide Nesting Sites. Different pollinators have different needs for nesting sites. Some examples are:
- Bee nesting blocks. Many species of solitary bees use small cavities in wood. Create your own bee nesting block by drilling different-diameter holes in a block of preservative-free wood.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Connecting People with Nature – How to build a bee block
- U.S. Forest Service, Celebrating Wildflowers - Create homes for native bees!
- The Xerces Society - Pollinator Conservation Program - Nests For Native Bees
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service - Build a Nesting Block
- If it’s not a safety hazard, consider leaving a dead tree or limb undisturbed to provide natural nesting habitat
- Ground nesting sites. Simply maintaining a small, undisturbed patch of bare ground will provide nesting habitat for ground-nesting bees. It is best if the site faces south so that it gets the most sun possible during the day.
3) Avoid or Limit Pesticide Use. Pesticides can kill more than the target pest. Some pesticide residues can kill pollinators for several days after the pesticide is applied. Pesticides can also kill natural predators, which can lead to even worse pest problems. Consider the following when managing pests in your garden:
- Try removing individual pests by hand if possible (wearing garden gloves)
- Encourage native predators with a diverse garden habitat
- Expect and accept a little bit of pest activity
- If you must use a pesticide, choose one that is the least toxic to non-pest species, does not persist on vegetation, and apply it in the evening when most pollinators are not as active. Read and follow label directions carefully.
Recommendations for Minimizing Pesticide Impacts to Pollinators. Poisoning of non-target insects, including bees, and other pollinators
are more likely to occur when plants are in bloom. Several precautions
can minimize the impact to non-target insects and other pollinators.
The following are some suggestions that may minimize the impacts
of pesticide use to non-target organisms.
- Apply pesticides
only when needed, using pest scouting (routine field checks
for the presence/absence of pests) to minimize the need
- Leave buffer zones between areas of pesticide application
and sensitive species, sensitive habitats, water, and potential
- Use the least
toxic pesticide recommended for control of the target pest
at the lowest effective rate.
- Avoid applying
pesticides while crops or wildflowers adjacent to or near
fields are in bloom.
- If pesticides
must be applied while crops are in bloom, apply in late
afternoon or at night when pollinators are least likely
to be working the blooms. However, note the "Caution" below.
- Always target
pesticide applications to avoid contaminating water, habitat
of rare species, and adjacent wildflowers.
- Reduce the amount
of drift by using ground equipment instead of aerial spraying
to apply pesticides. (Note: When pesticides are applied
by aircraft, as much as 50% to 75% of the chemicals sprayed
can miss their target (Pimentel et
al., 1992 In Ingram
1996), leading to inadvertent exposure of non-target
organisms such as pollinators (Ingram
- Avoid drift of
pesticides onto plants that are attractive to bees by not
spraying under windy conditions.
- Rinse pesticide
tanks thoroughly between pesticide applications to avoid
cross-contamination of pesticides.
- Use the pesticide
formulation least hazardous to bees that will control the
pest involved (See "Caution" below).
- Use liquid sprays
or granules instead of dusts.
- Avoid use of
microencapsulated pesticides, as they are similar in size
to pollen, and may cause severe poisonings as has been
documented with microencapsulated methyl parathion (Free
et al., 1967 In Johansen,
1977 and Johansen and Eves, 1967 In Johansen,
- Notify beekeepers
several days before applying any pesticide that is hazardous
to honey bees.
- Develop and implement
training programs to increase awareness and knowledge of
pollinators and their activity patterns among pesticide
- Develop public
outreach information to heighten awareness of the potential
role that pesticides may play in the decline of pollinators.
- While timing
application to avoid flowering periods or diurnal activity
periods may reduce the impacts of pesticides to many pollinators,
some pollinators, such as Normia bees that rest
in crop fields overnight, may be harmed by nighttime application
of pesticides (Natural Resource Council
Canada, 1981 In Kearns et
al., 1998). Similarly, moths that are active at night
may be harmed by nighttime application of pesticides.
- Regardless of application time, if toxins remain on plant
parts, pollinators such as leafcutter bees still may be harmed
if they bring contaminated leaves back to their nest (Kearns
et al., 1998). Likewise, the larvae of butterflies that
pollinate plants may be harmed by ingesting toxins remaining
on plant parts.
(These Recommendations were developed in part from USEPA, 1998c; Florida Agricultural Information Retrieval System, 1999; and Tew, 1997.)
For more information from the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agricultural Resources on:
• Steps Beekeepers Can Take to Protect Their Colonies,
• Relative Toxicities of Selected Insecticides and Miticides to Honey Bees (scroll to bottom), and
• Honey Bee Activity in Field Crops and Rangeland (scroll to bottom).
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fact Sheet: Reducing Risks to Pollinators from Pest Management Activities
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign - Pollinator Friendly Practices
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign – Solving your pest problems without harming pollinators
Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance
Agricultural Information Retrieval System. 1999. Protecting
Bees from Pesticides.
J.B., P.H. Needham, P.A. Racey, J.H. Stevenson. 1967. The effect
on honey bee mortality of applying insecticides as sprays or
granules to flowering field beans. J. Sci. Food Agric. 18:
M., G.P. Nabhan, and S.L Buchmann. Our Forgotten Pollinators:
Protecting the Birds and Bees. Global Pesticide Campaigner,
Volume 6, Number 4, December 1996, PANNA, San Francisco, CA, http://www.pmac.net/birdbee.htm.
M., G.P. Nabhan, and S.L. Buchmann (with assistance from the
Board of Advisors of the Forgotten Pollinators). 1996a. Ten
essential reasons to protect the birds and the bees. Arizona-Sonora
Desert Museum, Tuscon, AZ
M. G.P. Nabhan, S. Buchmann. 1996b. Impending pollination crisis
threatens biodiversity and agriculture. Tropinet 7:1.
C.A. 1977. Pesticides and pollinators. Ann. Rev. Entomol. 22:
Johansen, C.A. and J.D. Eves. 1972. Development of a pest management program on alfalfa grown for seed. Environ. Entomol. 2:515-17.
C.A., D.W. Inouye, and N.M. Waser. 1998. Endangered mutualisms:
the conservation of plant-pollinator interactions. Annu. Rev.
Ecol. Syst. 29: 83-112.
Resource Council Canada. 1981. Pesticide-Pollinator Interactions.
NRC Assoc. Comm. Sci. Criteria Environ. Qual. Publ. NRCC No.
18471. Ottawa, Canada: Natl. Res. Counc. Can. Environ. Secr.
D., H. Acquay, M. Biltonen, P. Rice, M. Silva, J. Nelson, V.
Lipner, S. Giordano, A. Horowitz, and M. D'Amore. 1992. Environmental
and economic cost of pesticide use. BioScience 42(10): 750-760.
J.E. Protecting Honey Bees from Pesticides. The Ohio State
University, Horticulture and Crop Science, Factsheet HYG-2161-97.
Environmental Protection Agency. 1998c. Environmental Fate
and Effects Division's Reregistration Eligibility Decision
Chapter for Methyl Parathion: Case 2345. October 1998. Washington,
DC. 92 pp.