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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) Build a Bee Box

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.

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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 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

For more information:
The Pollinator Partnership:

2) Provide Nesting Sites.  Different pollinators have different needs for nesting sites.  Some examples are:

Link to video: How to build a Beebloch.

  • 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 for application.
  • Leave buffer zones between areas of pesticide application and sensitive species, sensitive habitats, water, and potential nectar sources.
  • 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 1996).
  • 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, 1977).
  • 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 applicators.

  • 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.)


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fact Sheet: Reducing Risks to Pollinators from Pest Management Activities

North American Pollinator Protection Campaign - Pollinator Friendly Practices pdf file icon

North American Pollinator Protection Campaign – Solving your pest problems without harming pollinators pdf file icon

Natural Resources Conservation Service Archived Webinar, Preventing or Mitigating Potential Negative Impacts of Pesticides on Pollinators

Hummingbird Feeder Maintenance

Steps Beekeepers Can Take to Protect Their Colonies from eXtension

Relative Toxicities of Selected Insecticides and Miticides to Honey Bees:


Literature cited:

Florida Agricultural Information Retrieval System. 1999. Protecting Bees from Pesticides.

Free, 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: 133-38.

Ingram, 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.

Ingram, 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

Ingram, M. G.P. Nabhan, S. Buchmann. 1996b. Impending pollination crisis threatens biodiversity and agriculture. Tropinet 7:1.

Johansen, C.A. 1977. Pesticides and pollinators. Ann. Rev. Entomol. 22: 177-192.

Johansen, C.A. and J.D. Eves. 1972. Development of a pest management program on alfalfa grown for seed. Environ. Entomol. 2:515-17.

Kearns, 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.

Natural 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.

Pimentel, 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.

Tew, J.E. Protecting Honey Bees from Pesticides. The Ohio State University, Horticulture and Crop Science, Factsheet HYG-2161-97. Wooster, OH.

U.S. 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.



Last Updated: February 10, 2015