Pollinators are important allies in your Climate Victory Garden. These bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and wasps (and even birds and bats) pollinate between three quarters and 95 percent of all flowering plants on earth, including many of the crops and plants in your garden.
One in three bites of our food wouldn’t exist without pollinators, but these important players in our ecosystem are at risk due to habitat destruction, climate change, and the misuse of chemicals.
The best thing you can do to support pollinators is to reduce or eliminate use of synthetic chemicals in your garden, especially pesticides that are meant to kill pests but also inadvertently kill the beneficial pollinators. Be wary of chemicals that are advertised as non-toxic or low toxicity—for example, some formulations of permethrin are considered non-toxic to humans but are extremely harmful to bees. Fewer chemicals means fewer risks for pollinators (and you!) and contributes to the climate solution.
Creating habitat is also an important way to support pollinators.
Eliminate your use of non-organic pesticides.
Many pests can be easily controlled in a well-balanced garden. Using integrated pest management techniques like rotating crops, planting locally adapted pest resistant varieties, encouraging the natural predators of pests, and physically excluding and removing pests.
That said, if you find yourself needing to use chemical control, opt for organic options that protect your local ecosystem and pollinators, many of which are derived from plants or naturally-occurring bacteria. Be on the lookout for products that are greenwashed, and actually contain toxic ingredients—review the ingredients before using. Or, consider DIY remedies that are often comprised of nontoxic home ingredients, like soap, beer, garlic, and pepper.
Various pesticides work in different ways, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. If possible, apply in the evenings, when most pollinators are least active. Avoid spraying pollinators directly with whatever product you’re using, and cover plants after spraying for the duration of time that pollinators could potentially be harmed. Consider avoiding any pesticide use on all plants while they’re flowering.
Include pollinator habitat in your garden plan.
Select plants that support pollinators. In some cases, these are plants you’d like to eat yourself like tomatoes or sunflowers. In other cases, they’re specific to the pollinators like milkweed for Monarch butterflies that add beauty and diversity to your garden.
Pollinator Partnership has a great tool where you enter your zip code and learn more about the specific plants that will grow in your area and what types of pollinators they will attract. For example, bees prefer bright white, yellow, or blue flowers with a mild odor and shallow shape. Butterflies, on the other hand, prefer bright reds and purples and flowers with a wide landing pad. Choose native and perennial options for greater climate impact, and plant strategically so there’s always something blooming.
Build a Monarch butterfly habitat. Plant a tree, where 30 percent of bees live and where most honeybees get their nectar. Buy honey from local beekeepers who care about pollinators and the environment. Build a hotel for mason bees (which are docile and don’t require much care).
You can also take action beyond your backyard. You can plant pollinator parkways in the spaces between your sidewalks and curbs. And, if your city is not yet a Bee City, you can encourage your city council to take part and get all residents on board with protecting pollinators.