Tips on gardening for pollinators

fly on daisy
Flies, hummingbirds, bats, beetles, butterflies and bees are all pollinators. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

When we think of pollinators, we usually think of bees.

But any animal that carries pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar is a pollinator. This includes hummingbirds, bats, beetles and even flies.

More than 75 percent of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals.

Since this is National Pollinator Week, we’re sharing some gardening tips on how you can help pollinators.

This information comes from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM).

Why we need pollinators

Pollinators contribute substantially to the state’s environment and economy.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year.

If there were no pollinators, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds, and there would be far less fruit, vegetables and nuts for humans worldwide.

Pollinators need your help

The number of pollinators, including honey bees, native bats, hummingbirds and butterflies has dropped significantly over the past 50 years.

Losses are likely caused by a combination of factors including irresponsible pesticide use, poor nutrition, loss of foraging habitat, parasites, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and poor land management practices, according to the DEC and the DAM.

Taking the time to learn about how human actions affect fragile pollinator food chains could have positive effects for years to come.

What you can do


Be careful with pesticides

Don’t use pesticides unless you really have to.

If using a pesticide is necessary, make sure you read and follow label instructions. Don’t apply the product when the plant is flowering or when it’s windy out.

Tip: Try to apply the product at night when pollinators are less active.

Some pesticides are known to be particularly harmful to bees, and those have special bee advisory labels on them.

Check out the EPA’s guide to better pesticide management practices (PDF).

Plant a pollinator garden 

What pollinators need most is a diverse supply of nectar and pollen.

Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources all throughout the growing season.

Help to create a pollinator pathway—a series of gardens with native plants in an urban landscape. Here are some ideas for plants to include in your pollinator pathway.

Take a Virtual Pollinator Garden Tour created through a grant from NYS Integrated Pest Management with help from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County.

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