How you can help bees & pollinators in your yard, garden and community

These days it's hard to be a bee.

Bees and other pollinators are delicate creatures.  It doesn’t take much to kill a bee. Loss of habitat, disease, parasites and pesticides have taken their toll on our pollinators. Pollinator habitat on the modern farm has essentially been eliminated with the advent of "Round Up Ready" crops and pollinators don't fare much better in our turf grass dominated modern urban and suburban landscape.  Insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides act together to suppress the pollinator immune system, making them more susceptible to disease and mites.

Neonicotinoidal systemic insecticides are of particular concern. Systemic insecticides render the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, toxic.  A butterfly or moth larvae that feeds on treated plant leaves is poisoned, and the bumblebee collects toxic pollen.  The US Environmental Protection Agency approved neonicotinoid use starting in 1991.  Since then, we have seen massive declines in pollinator and insect populations across the globe.  Beyond insect decline, neonicotinoids are found in the majority of surface waters in the US.  Studies clearly indicate that neonicotinoids are decreasing populations of aquatic invertebrates, birds, amphibians, fish and other living things.  Nearly 100% of all corn grown in the US is seed treated with neonicotinoids, of which 5% is taken up by the plant and the vast majority being sloughed off into waterways and the atmosphere.  Neonicotinoids are also used extensively in the horticulture industry by nurseries and greenhouses, lawn and tree care companies, pest control services, municipalities, and by homeowners. These dangerous chemicals are found in garden centers and hardware stores across the country.  

Pollinators form the base of the food chain on which we all depend.  We cannot imagine a world without pollinators.

You can help protect bees and other pollinators.

See a list of action steps you can take in your own yard, community and state.  read more...

Use plants that provide pollen and nectar at all times of the year.  read more...

Eliminate neonicotinoid and fipronil use from your garden.  read more...

Ask your nursery or garden center if their plants have ever been treated with neonicotinoids.  read more...

Plant 25% of your gardens with plants native to your area.  Native plants support native pollinators.   read more...

Have a “Not So Tidy Garden” – Tolerate some weeds and plant damage.

Leave an undisturbed area in your yard with some bare soil. 70% of native bees live in the soil.

Leave your gardens up all winter and cut back in later spring.  Many native bees overwinter in the stalks of your perennials and grasses and don’t emerge until it the weather warms – approximately mid-April in Minnesota.  The seeds of your garden plants will also help sustain birds through the winter.

Let your lawn be filled with low cover like clover, creeping charlie, violets, and dandelions to support pollinators.  Dandelions are the first nectar source in spring and extremely important to pollinators.  Reduce the amount of turf and instead plant native plant areas, gardens and covers. Grass has hardly a root system compared to the hardy root system of native plants and cover which help filter toxins from groundwater. read more....

Support the efforts of your local community and conservation groups to make your own community pollinator friendly.  Talk with your local City officials to implement IPM and bee friendly practices.   

Keep all chemicals off lawn and gardens, they harm pollinators and contaminate groundwater.

Reduce traditional lawn or turf, they do not support wildlife.  

Provide a water source for pollinators.  Clean water is essential for more than just hydration. 

Contact your legislator and ask them to support pollinator friendly issues. read more...
Find your Minnesota legislator here, and your Wisconsin legislator here.

Pollinators include wasps. Did you know that wasps pollinate milkweed and are thus invaluable to monarch survival.  Strive to not kill wasps.  If you have problems with Yellow Jackets or Hornets near the entry of a home, try non-toxic solutions like food syrup traps.  

Talk with your friends, neighbors, and children about the importance of pollinators and how they are crucial for our food supply and how they are food sources for birds, fish, and thus support the base of the ecosystem.

Purchase and support organic and sustainable practices at the grocery store and otherwise.  Know your farmer to be sure your food is being grown without pesticides.

A change of philosophy on lawns, gardening and farming are essential to the existence of pollinators.  We all need to think about growing things and nature in a more sustainable way. Celebrate our amazing natural world by working alongside.