Without pollinators we’d lose one of every three mouthfuls of our food and drink, including nutritious fruits and vegetables like apples, almonds and blueberries.
But pollinators like bees are struggling to survive, in part, because of pesticides. Everyone can help pollinators while keeping our yards looking great.
Avoid pesticides, particularly the ones most toxic to bees.
Some insecticides, such neonicotinoids, are systemic, meaning they travel inside the plant to all its parts. In some cases this makes the flowers toxic to bees for years after only one application.
There are lots of great ways to prevent pests in your yard without pesticides:
- Add compost to the soil to help plants build their natural defenses.
- Use simple and safe pest control methods like blasting aphids off plants with water, hand-pulling weeds and picking and squishing bugs.
- Select pest-and-disease-resistant plants likely to thrive in the sun, soil, and water of the site you plant them in.
Plant diverse flowers, especially native ones, so pollinators have the nectar they need.
Buy organically grown plants or ones that were not treated with neonicotinoid pesticides so you don’t harm the very critters you’re trying to help.
Plant flowers of different colors, shapes and sizes and plan to have something blooming in each season from early spring to fall.
Native flowering plants such as douglas spirea, goldenrod and yarrow are more reliably useful to pollinators, but plenty of nonnative plants, such as sunflowers, are great too.
For smaller flowering plants, use several of the same variety in a clump so pollinators will notice them more readily.
Create and protect nesting sites.
Unkempt areas can make great nesting habitat – open sandy ground, small brush piles, old tree stumps and plants left unpruned through the winter all help. You can even make bee homes with bundles of pithy stems, and some species will nest in bundles of hollow stems, drilled mason bee blocks or nest boxes.
If you see leaves being nibbled by caterpillars, let them be – they’ll turn into beautiful, pollinating butterflies later!
Pollinators need water, too. Learn how to add mud or a bug bath, and other habitat hints
Learn more about encouraging pollinators from the Xerces Society