Habitat destruction (and the consequent loss of floral and nesting resources) along with chemical use are major contributors to ongoing declines in pollinator populations. You can help reverse this troubling trend by planting a pollinator garden and limiting chemical use on your property.

Plant a pollinator garden
To help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators visiting your backyard, you can plant a pollinator garden! Pollinator gardens provide a safe haven for pollinators as well as a beautiful garden that you can enjoy. Some of the features of pollinator gardens include: 1) native floral resources that bloom throughout the growing season so that there is always nectar and pollen available to pollinators, 2) nesting habitat for pollinators, and 3) water resources. These gardens also serve as a refuge from pesticide and other chemical exposure. Gardening associations can provide guidance on the best plants and features to include in gardens for your geographic region. Some may also provide certification that your garden is pollinator friendly.

Creating a pollinator garden on your property can provide an outstanding opportunity to teach your family or students about the diversity of pollinators and plants in your region, explore landscape design principles, and learn about soil and water management, biological cycles, and integrated pest management. Pollinator gardens can be large or small, and even container plantings can have a big impact and provide fun, educational opportunities.

Minimize pesticide and other chemical use on your property
Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are intended to kill pest insects, plant pathogens and weeds. Unfortunately, use of these chemicals may have unintended, negative effects on beneficial insects and plants. To reduce off-target damage, limit chemical use on your property. If you do plan to spray, make sure to follow label instructions and do not spray plants when they are in bloom since pollinators will be attracted to the flowers.

Penn State recognizes that a balance must be struck between managing agricultural pest populations while fostering pollinator health. Penn State researchers are developing Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management (IPPM) strategies which are elaborated upon within the Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan chapter on Best Practices for Pesticide Use.

Adopt a 'lazy lawn mower' approach
Mow your lawn less frequently or increase mower height to sustain more low-flowering plants in your lawn. Flowers that grow in lawns, such as dandelions, bird's-foot trefoil and clover provide underrated, but very important, pollen and nectar resources for foraging bees. Maintain a pile of yard brush on your property to attract wild cavity- and ground-nesting bees. It may appear unsightly to the human eye, but the bees can and will use it to shelter in.

Add nesting opportunities for pollinators on your property
The habitat needs of different pollinators are tied to a wide diversity of life histories. Some pollinators, like bumble bees and sweat bees nest underground in bare patches of soil, while others, like mason bees and leafcutting bees, live in above-ground cavities. Still other pollinators, including carpenter bees, nest in dead or decaying wood. At the same time, caterpillars require certain larval host plants to complete their development to become butterflies and moths, who are both important pollinators of natural ecosystems. Make sure that you are able to provide pollinators and other beneficial insects a diversity of resources, which may include:

  • Solitary bee hotels (Learn more about solitary bees here!)
  • Bare ground (preferably on a south-facing slope)
  • Decaying logs
  • Larval host plants for butterflies and other pollinators

Support the Center for Pollination Research
The Center for Pollinator Research is committed to developing and implementing integrative, multidisciplinary approaches to improving pollinator health, conservation, and management for ecosystems services through research, education, outreach and policy. If you are interested in donating, please visit Our Sponsors page. All donations are greatly appreciated.

The Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan
The Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan (P4) is a comprehensive document that provides information on the pollinators of Pennsylvania and steps we can take to conserve and expand their populations. Within the document, there is information on best practices for establishing and maintaining gardens and natural habitat for pollinators, best practices for pesticide use, and best practices for beekeeping.