In recognition of Pollinator Week, Sustainable Saratoga is unveiling our new Pollinator Protection Initiative. This blog post is the next in a series that go in depth on a few pollinator issues.


What do insect pollinators need? Not surprisingly, just like other animals they need food, shelter and water. They also need freedom from pesticides, especially insecticides, and undisturbed nesting sites. To create a refuge for pollinators and to encourage biodiversity in urban and suburban settings, you can take some or all of the following steps:

  1. Stop spraying pesticides on your lawn or garden. Especially avoid long term persistent insecticides like neonicotinoids, otherwise known as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin. Some researchers think these are the main culprits in the collapse of insect species across the world and they are commonly used in yards all over the United States. Read your labels.
  2. Plant a variety of native plants in your garden to provide a continual food source for native pollinators. There are a number of good free phones apps for identifying native species (click for an example) that you can use to decide what to plant and what to keep in your lawn and garden. Native plants support native pollinators.
    • Plant a caterpillar garden instead of a butterfly garden. Adult butterflies are attracted to nectar, but they need native host plants for their larvae to survive. “Butterfly plant” comes from China and even though it attracts adult butterflies to your garden, it will not support the next generation of New York butterflies. Plant native butterfly weed instead.
    • Add milkweed! Support monarchs!
    • Large patches of a single species of flower helps pollinators be more efficient than scattered food sources.
  3. Buy local plants. Find a native plant nursery in your area and ask them if they use pesticides to grow their seedlings. Most big box stores sell plants that were grown in other states with neonics and other pesticides toxic to insects and soil life.
  4. Reduce your area of mowed lawn. Lawns without a mix of non-grass flowering plants are deserts for insects. Enlarge your flower beds or simply stop mowing. Delay mowing as long as possible and set your mower on high to avoid habitat destruction.
  5. Use natural mulches or compost and leave some bare ground for ground-nesting bees and insects that pupate or lay eggs in the soil. It is popular to use dyed wood mulch to keep down weeds and make your garden beds look tidy. These mulches are made from scrap wood, including old decking and other treated lumber. They contain dyes that leach into the soil. Substitute straw, chopped leaf mulch (run your lawn mower over leaves and voila, you have leaf mulch), or compost instead of dyed mulch. Natural mulch will feed your plants and allow insect pollinators to complete their life cycles.
  6. Get rid of invasive exotic species. They do not support local insects and birds and they choke out native plants. Common invasive species in upstate New York include goutweed, burning bush, Japanese barberry, honeysuckle, multiflora roses, Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard and bittersweet, among others. Find out more about invasive species here.
  7. Provide water for wildlife. Setting out a shallow dish of water with twig and rock perches will help insects survive. Bird baths are too deep for them.
  8. Educate yourself! There are many wonderful websites, Facebook pages and other sources of information to learn about how to support pollinators and biodiversity. Be part of the solution. Start by checking out our new Pollinator pages!