More than 85 percent of flowering plants require an insect for pollination which allows for the production of fruit and seed. These fruits and seeds are a part of the diet of about 25 percent of birds, and many mammals. Each year pollinators affect $577 billion in global crops, including $235 billion in the United States. Native bees pollinate an estimated 15 percent of U.S fruit, nut, vegetable, and field crops.
To support the health of pollinators like honey bees, native bees, and monarch butterflies, the National Wildlife Federation and partners came together to form The National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) in 2014. The NPGN then launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge in June 2015, with a special announcement from the First Lady, to encourage all Americans to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. Every individual can help by providing the following.
Provide native flowering plants and trees that sustain pollinators with nutrient rich nectar and pollen. Learn more about the plants in your region that pollinators evolved with and rely upon.
Provide water for pollinators by filling a shallow birdbath with gravel or creating a muddy patch in a corner of your yard.
Cluster plantings close together to provide pollinators’ shelter and camouflage from predators.
• Butterflies need special host plants as food for their caterpillars. Planting host plants attracts more butterflies and allows them to successfully produce the next generation. Find host plants for butterflies and moths native to your area.
• Most native bees are solitary and lay eggs in tiny tunnels in dead trees, fallen. branches, hollow stems, or in sandy soil. Leave standing dead trees, fallen logs, and bare patches of sandy soil.
• Attract hummingbirds by planting dense shrubs for nesting.
Attract ladybugs, predatory wasps, and other natural enemies of garden pests. Native plants attract these beneficial pest predators. These insects are a sign of a healthy garden, and an important food source for birds. No need to spray pesticides! Hand-pick pests if you have an infestation or wash them off with a stream of water from a hose.
If you must spray:
• Only use organic or natural pest deterrents such as soap, garlic and chili pepper.
• Spray only at night, when flowers are not blooming, and when it’s dry and windless.
• Use products that target specific pests rather than broad-spectrum ones. Avoid anything labeled as toxic to bees or that kills the “weedy” flowers pollinators visit. Specifically avoid garden products that include neonicotinoids. Learn more about avoiding these chemicals.
• Carefully read and follow application instructions on any spray, using them sparingly.