Do your part to save the pollinators - the bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects critical to our food supply and human survival.
Plant a "pocket" of flowers that attract and nurture pollinators in your own yard. The pollinator pockets described on this site will make it easy to select, plant and maintain.
You may not realize that manicured lawns, exotic plantings, and enticing hybrids and cultivars often provide no value to pollinators. By placing pollinator pockets into your landscape, you provide an oasis for pollinators. Now that's sweet!
Just imagine your dining table without the delectable fruits of apples, blueberries, cherries and peaches or the versatile pumpkin or zucchini. Flowering plants and their associated pollinators are responsible for the vast majority of our food: an estimated one out of every four mouthfuls of food and beverage. Pollinators are also crucial, directly or indirectly, for production of dyes, medicines and fibers such as cotton.
Pollinators also sustain plant communities by pollinating native plants that provide food, nesting and shelter for wildlife. Pollinators include butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, flies and wasps. In North America 99% of pollinators are insects and of those, most are bees.
Unfortunately pollinators are in perilous decline. Yet gardeners can be a positive influence on pollinator populations and diversity if we all do our part to plant pollinator-friendly gardens.
Ways You Can Help
Food for pollinators is generally provided by flower nectar and pollen; however, some pollinators such as butterflies need specific plants such as milkweeds for monarchs to serve as food for caterpillars. To attract particular pollinators conduct additional research to determine their needs during each of their life stages.
Good pollinator plants include asters, beebalm, native roses, Joe Pye weed, purple coneflower, great blue lobelia, white indigo, lead plant, blazing stars, beard tongue, bellflowers, hollyhocks, monkshood, snapdragons, sunflowers, foxglove, mints, tomatoes, butterfly weed, goldenrod, larkspur, milkweeds, herbs and many more bee-utiful flowers.
When possible choose native plants and not cultivars of native plants. Ornamental changes within cultivated plants may not provide the necessary attributes of a good pollinator flower. Exotic plants such as butterfly bush can provide food for bees and butterflies but cannot sustain the complete life cycle of pollinator insects. In addition native plants provide food for a greater diversity of pollinators.
Plant masses of similar flowers and design areas to have flowers blooming all season. Aim for a variety of flowers blooming at once. Add easy-to-grow annual seeds such as zinnia and sunflower to existing perennial flower gardens to support flower diversity.
Convert a section of your lawn to a “Pollinator Pocket”, a suggested planting plan developed by UI Extension educator, Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. Designs developed for an approximately 5 foot by 5 foot space and include options for a variety of sun, shade and moisture conditions.
Allow spaces between masses of flowers to provide shelter from wind and cold. Leave dead stems over the winter to provide shelter and nesting areas.
Limit, or better yet, eliminate pesticide use. When using pesticides, check with your local UI Extension office for proper timing and least toxic options.
When you purchase plants, ask the seller if the plants were treated with neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals known to negatively impact bees. Avoid plants exposed to neonicotinoids.
If you are worried about luring something into your garden that can sting, keep in mind bees are not bullies looking for a fight. A happy bee is like a gardener in a garden center, focused on each flower.
The Xerces Society has Identification Guides for a variety of pollinators.
The USDA Forest Service site provides identification tips and fun facts about various pollinators.
For identification of pollinators, consider these online tools:
If you like photography and want to become involved in citizen scientist bee research and identification, become a BeeSpotter