You can help pollinators in multiple ways.
1) PLANT NATIVE, POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY SPECIES. Whether you have room for a window box or an acre, you can create habitat for pollinators! Urban and suburban gardens attract a diverse pollinator community, as long as they have adequate food throughout the summer.
Pollinator-friendly plant lists
Xerces Society guide for the Northeast Region
Audubon Society list by zip code
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center lists by state
Pollinator.org ecoregion lists
Pollinator-friendly plants may still be treated with pesticides, which can harm pollinators once they are planted at your home. The Xerces Society has some helpful resources to ensure that you are purchasing plants that are safe for bees and guidance for talking with nurseries about their practices.
2) PROVIDE NEST SITES FOR POLLINATORS. Pollen and nectar nourish adult bees and butterflies, but you can support them throughout their life by creating habitat. Plant host plants for butterfly caterpillars, and leave some brush, hollow stems and bare ground for bees to nest. And don’t forget trees! Trees and shrubs make up two-thirds of pollinator host plants. Oak trees are especially important (read more here).
And leave your leaves in the Fall! Many species of beneficial insects overwinter in leaf litter.
Xerces has more detailed information about creating pollinator nest habitat.
3) AVOID PESTICIDES. American homeowners use ~70 million pounds of pesticides on their lawns each year, despite the increasing evidence linking these chemicals to human and environmental health issues (NY Audubon). Pesticides do not just harm “pests” insects and weeds, they also harm pollinators and other beneficial insects. Pesticides includes fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. Do not use pesticides on your lawn and gardens. Look for pollinator-friendly pest control options, such as biocontrol (using beneficial insects to control crop pests). Learn more from Xerces and Audubon.
A special note on Neonicotinoids:
Neonicotinoid insecticides are now the most widely used class of insecticides in the world, and they have a devastating effect on insects. They last a long time in the environment, including inside of the plants. Neonicotinoids are also water-soluble, so they move through the environment easily and move through the soil to neighboring plants and into local waterways. Click here to learn more.
4) RESTRICT OR ELIMINATE THE USE OF ARTIFICIAL OUTDOOR LIGHTING. Scientific evidence is increasingly finding that light pollution negatively impacts nocturnal pollinators. Outside lights should be fitted with motion sensors that can’t be triggered by insects, or with timers to shut them off when no humans are around.
5) SPREAD THE WORD! Bee an advocate. Talk to your neighbors and friends. Put a sign up in your garden that says you have a pollinator-friendly garden. Ask your town or city to create pollinator-friendly habitat in parks and along roadways, and to stop using pesticides on government property.
Xerces has some great resources to help you get started today!
Click the links below for more information about:
The Importance of Pollinators
Who Are the Pollinators?
Threats to Pollinators
Visit our Pollinator Resources page, which has links to lots of additional information.