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Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that pollinator decline is big news right now. I've learned through meetings and other reliable sources that many factors contribute to this decline. Below are some facts I've found useful and interesting.

What is Pollination? Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower. There are many ways that flowers are pollinated, including wind and animals.

According to the website about 75% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals. The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths.

At a recent pollinator conference I learned that 300 plant species pollinated by bats are foods we eat. Other pollinators of our most colorful healthy foods include native bees, other insects, birds, moths and butterflies, and more. Honey bees are not native here but are important pollinators of many of our food crops.

May Berenbaum, University of Illinois Entomologist, gave the keynote address at that conference, which included information on monarch decline. Monarch decline is also due to many factors including habitat modification, weather, disease, overwintering site deforestation, and more. One of her important points was that we should not plant monocultures of milkweed at the detriment of adult monarchs and the many other native butterflies and moths of Illinois that require different food. Diverse landscapes that include a few milkweeds, some native plants, and less lawn are best.

University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists and Master Naturalists have many projects across the state that help restore pollinator habitat, including monarch. The Butterfly Habitat at Wildlife Prairie Park is just one example. There are also many monarch way stations built around Illinois.

Many others are joining the bandwagon to protect pollinators. President Obama just announced a new federal pollinator program, the 2014 Farm Bill includes many programs to add pollinator habitat, Trees Forever offers habitat grants, and the list goes on and on. I created a pollinator Pinterest board that links to these and more at



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.