Introduction to protecting and increasing pollinators in your landscape

Most of the fruit and vegetables we eat would not exist if we did not have honey bees and native bees to pollinate the flowers they developed from.

Bee on snakeroot.
Bee on snakeroot. Photo by Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension

Most of the fruit and vegetables we eat would not exist if we did not have honey bees and native bees to pollinate the flowers they developed from. Wildflowers, and most flowering trees and shrubs must also be pollinated by bees to produce fruit and seed. In addition to providing critical pollination services, some of our pollinators like monarch butterflies, swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds are valued as wildlife that we enjoy in the yard and garden.

In the last 20 years, scientists have documented decreased survival rates of honey bees, a decrease in native bee diversity and a rapid decline in some species of butterflies and bumble bees. Researchers have identified the biggest threats to be a decrease in flowers due to habitat change, increasingly clean (weed-free) agricultural fields and widespread use of pesticides such as systemic insecticides in most corn and soybean fields and area-wide mosquito spray programs. The other significant threat is intercontinental spread of bee parasites or pathogens, like the Varroa mite, a major threat to honey bees.

Although some of the most important steps to protect pollinators must be made in agriculture or by managing public lands, we also need to protect pollinators in our yards and gardens. This bulletin explains how to select flowers, herbs, shrubs and trees that support a diversity of pollinators throughout the year, how to manage your yard and garden to protect pollinators, and how to provide food and nesting sites for them.

This resource was updated May 2019.

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Read the next article in this publication series: Pollinators in urban landscapes

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