U S Fish and Wildlife Service



USFWS Customer Service Center


Get Adobe Reader to view pdf file icon files

What You Can do
Brownies and Girls scouts make butterflies out of craft material
Over 90 Brownies and Girl Scouts helped build a butterfly habitat at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge.

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) Provide Nesting Habitat

3) Avoid or Limit Pesticide Use

Pollinator Brochure: Attracting Pollinators to your Garden.

  Attracting Pollinators to your Garden

Pollinator Brochure: Attracting Pollinators to your Garden.

Web version (500 KB pdf) pdf file icon
Print version (5.7 MB pdf) pdf file icon

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:

picture of a Garden Illustration

Garden Illustration
Credit: T.Knepp/USFWS

  • 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 pdf file icon 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
  • If monarch butterflies live within your area, consider planting milkweed so their caterpillars have food. Find a list of milkweed appropriate for your area.

For more information:

2) Provide Nesting Sites.  Different pollinators have different needs for nesting sites.

Nesting Sites
Credit: T.Knepp/USFWS

Hummingbirds typically nest in trees or shrubs, and use plant materials, mosses, lichens, and spider webs to construct their nests. Their nests are very hard to find because they are typically tiny, located well off the ground, and are very camouflaged to protect from predators.

Many butterflies lay eggs on specific plants (host plants) that their young (caterpillars) eat. For example, monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed plants. You can find out more about the plants butterflies use by searching on the butterfly species of interest

Most bees nest in the ground and in wood or dry plant stems. Most bees are solitary nesters except bumble bees and the non-native honeybees. Bumble bees have been found nesting in holes in the ground abandoned by mammals, in openings in stone walls, in abandoned bird boxes, and other cavities. You can provide nesting sites for native bees -

  • Ground nesting sites: Simply maintaining a small, undisturbed patch of well-drained bare or sparsely vegetated ground may 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, and is not inundated by a sprinkler.
  • Wood nesting sites: Carpenter bees will chew their own burrows in wood, while many other bees use holes or cavities that are already in wood or dry plant stems.
    • If it's not a safety hazard, consider leaving a dead tree or limb undisturbed to provide natural nesting habitat.
    • When pruning shrubs if you notice stems that are hollow or soft inside (e.g., raspberries, roses, sumac, elderberry, goldenrod, coneflower), cut some stems back to a foot in height to provide bee nesting sites.
    • Some bees will nest in artificial nesting sites – blocks of preservative-free wood with drilled holes of different diameters. These "bee blocks" are a great way to learn about native bees because it is easy to observe them periodically. While they may provide some habitat, recent research raises concerns that these sites may provide habitat for non-native species [which may compete with our native species] and could result in increased parasitism rates on bees using them. Also, when used, it is very important to have an inner paper liner and replace it annually; otherwise if any of the bees are diseased, the disease can easily spread to the bees using the holes the next year. Note: solitary wasps will also use these for nesting sites.

For more information:

Link to video: How to build a Beebloch.

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.

Credit: T.Knepp/USFWS

Consider the following when managing pests in your garden:

  • Try removing individual pests by hand if possible (wearing garden gloves)
  • Encourage native predators (for example, praying mantids) with a diverse garden habitat
    Expect and accept a little bit of pest activity
  • Learn more about integrated pest management
  • If you must use a pesticide:
    • only use it when you have a pest problem (not as a preventative)
    • choose one that is effective for the target pest and the least toxic to non-pest species
    • choose one that does not persist on vegetation
    • use the lowest effective application rate
    • avoid applying when wildflowers are in bloom
    • apply it in the late afternoon or evening when most pollinators are not as active
    • target your application where needed (e.g., use a hand sprayer, rather than aerial applications)
    • use liquid sprays or granules, rather than dusts, to avoid it drifting to other plants
    • do not spray when it is windy
    • avoid microencapsulated formulations as they can be mistaken for pollen by pollinators
    • do not apply near water, or sensitive species or sensitive habitats
    • always read and follow label directions carefully
    • rinse pesticide tanks after each use to avoid cross-contamination of pesticides
    • notify nearby beekeepers several days before using products harmful to honeybees
    • develop and implement training programs to increase awareness and knowledge of pollinators and their activity patterns among pesticide applicators
    • develop public outreach information to raise awareness of the potential role that improperly used pesticides may play in the decline of pollinators


  • Some pollinators, such as Normia bees (that rest in crop fields overnight) and moths (that are active overnight), may be harmed by nighttime application of pesticides. Check to determine if these pollinators are active in your area before applying pesticides at night.
  • 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. Likewise, the larvae of butterflies that pollinate plants may be harmed by ingesting toxins remaining on plant parts.


For more information:



Last Updated: June 12, 2015