Bee Pollinator

Supporting Pollinators

Native pollinators play a key role in supporting the health and sustainability of native ecosystems as well as providing valuable crop fertilization services. Insects, such as bees, moths, and butterflies, make up the majority of pollinator species in the US. There is evidence of a decline in pollinator populations due to a number of factors, including loss of habitat. We offer numerous plant species and a variety of native seed mixes (including a Midwest Mesic Pollinator Mix) that support the conservation and restoration of native habitat.

The importance of native plant communities

Monarch Butterfly resting and feeding on a native species.Many native plant species, including trees and shrubs, have been negatively impacted by development, herbicide and pesticide use, invasive species, and non-native landscaping practices. Planting or retaining native species for pollinator habitat and food sources helps preserve and restore the ecosystem benefits for more than just the pollinator species. Many birds and mammals require a diet of berries, fruits, and seeds from insect-pollinated plants, and the adult and larvae of insect pollinators are fed upon by many birds, bats, other insects, and mammals. The native plants also rely on insects for their pollination to continue to support the health of the ecosystem.

Habitat needs of insect pollinators

The large number and diversity of pollinator species have a range of needs, so plant variety is important. Pollinators need a diversity of flowering species with a succession of bloom times, to provide a source of nectar throughout the year. They also need a variety of native plants to provide shelter and nesting sites. Species may select single plant species as host plants for their larvae to feed upon. For example, the Monarch butterfly only lay their eggs on milkweed species, (Asclepias spp.). Loss of milkweed in the environment due to increased herbicide use and land development has been cited by many research articles as a primary cause in the decline of Monarch populations. It is critical to have enough of the appropriate habitat within the flight range of pollinators to support a healthy population.

Supporting crop fertilization

A bee on top of a flowering native plant collecting pollen.Native pollinators provide a substantial benefit for crop production. According to a wide range of research, insect pollination is responsible for the fertilization of at least 75% of flowering plants and crops. The role of insects in moving pollen from the stamen (male part of the flower) to the stigma (female part of the flower) leads to fertilization that produces fruit and seeds for a wide variety of crops. Honey bees provide the bulk of crop pollination in the US, but native bees also make significant contributions to pollination estimated in billions of dollars annually.

Native plants that support pollinators

Homeowners, farmers and land owners, public entities, and private businesses can support pollinators by including a diverse selection of native plants in projects. Native plant diversity and pollinators have a positive impact in various conditions, including;

  • Agriculture
  • Corporate Campuses
  • Erosion control
  • Landfills
  • Landscape design
  • Mitigations
  • Parks and golf courses
  • Roadsides
  • Stormwater control
  • Utility corridors
  • Wetlands
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Windbreaks

Native plant diversity is a primary component of a healthy native ecosystem. Native plants are superior to exotic/non-native ornamentals and hybridized native varieties because they flower during the natural time of the season and offer pollinators the nutrition they need to remain healthy. Planting or maintaining a mixture of native plants that will have different species flowering continually from early spring until late fall is ideal. See our detailed species listing with species information, including flowering times.

Pollinator landscapes

Butterfly on among a native landscape feeding off a flowering plant.Aesthetics are an important factor when choosing native plants for a site. Not all native plant species fit every landscape. Follow these simple fundamentals:

  • Place taller species in the back, stagger bloom times, plant the same species in groups.
  • Use edging and landscape fabric for weed control.
  • Use plant plugs for planting beds.
  • On sites greater than one acre, planting seed mixes can be more effective in establishing native species. Click here for more information on installing and maintaining native plants and seed.

Recommended native landscape plants for pollinators

Forbs:

  • Asclepias tuberosa
  • Baptisia australis
  • Coreopsis lanceolata
  • Coreopsis palmata
  • Dalea purpurea
  • Dalea candida
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Eurybia macrophylla
  • Filipendula rubra
  • Liatris spp.
  • Lobelia spp.
  • Monarda fistulosa
  • Oligoneuron rigidum
  • Penstemon spp.
  • Pycnanthemum spp.
  • Rudbeckia fulgida
  • Rudbeckia subtomentosa
  • Zizia aurea

Grasses:

  • Carex spp.
  • Chasmanthium latifolium
  • Juncus effusus
  • Koeleria pyramidata
  • Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Sporobolus heterolepis