The Basics of Creating Beneficial Pollinator Habitat

As urban and suburban areas expand, greenspaces such as parks, golf courses, and landscaped campuses are increasingly precious. Healthy parks foster healthy human and animal communities alike. Pollinator conservation is perfectly suited for urban greenspaces. The basic habitat needs for pollinator insects are simple to provide and can be integrated into the current maintenance of any green infrastructure.

While different pollinators may have specific needs to support each stage of their lifecycle, they all need high-quality habitat that provides an abundance of flowers, shelter and nesting sites, and protection from pesticides. 



Food in the form of abundant flowering plants that provide access to pollen and nectar throughout the growing season. Providing wildflower-rich habitat is the most significant action you can take to support pollinators. Adult bees, butterflies, and other pollinators require nectar as their primary food source, and female bees collect pollen as food for their offspring. Native plants, which are adapted to local soils and climates, are usually the best sources of nectar and pollen for native pollinators. Incorporating native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees into any landscape promotes local biological diversity and provides shelter and food for a diversity of wildlife. Most natives require minimal irrigation, flourish without fertilizers, and are unlikely to become weedy.

Leafcutter Bee Nest Site

Shelter and Nesting Sites

Access to shelter and nesting sites including host plants for butterflies, pithy-stems and dead wood for cavity-nesting bees, and bare earth for ground-nesting bees. 70% of native bees are ground nesting, creating burrows in soil. They need access to bare soil and may be impacted by tilling. 30% of native bees are cavity nesting such as leafcutter and mason bees. These species need cavities in dead wood, hollow stems, or brush piles. Bumble bees create nests in cavities underground or in trees. They prefer abandoned rodent burrows or sheltered areas such as those beneath brush piles. Butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants or within plant families. These are known as host plants, that provide food and shelter for caterpillars when they emerge.


Protection From Pesticides

Protection from pesticides which kill non-target insects and degrade habitat by removing or contaminating flowering plants. Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides used widely on farms and in urban landscapes. Although less acutely toxic to mammals and other vertebrates than older insecticides, neonicotinoids are highly toxic in small quantities to bees. The impact of this class of insecticides on pollinating insects is a cause for concern. Because they are systemic chemicals absorbed into the plant, neonicotinoids can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to pollinators that feed on them. The potentially long-lasting presence of neonicotinoids in plants makes it possible for these chemicals to harm pollinators even when the initial application is made months before the bloom period. 

Pollinator Ambassador

Community Ambassadors

Advocates who are willing to make changes in their own landscape, but also teach others and spread the word to encourage pollinator- friendly practices in their community.  Since February 2021, pollinator advocates have committed to contact their nurseries in nearly 60 cities! Gardeners like yourself are taking just a few minutes to ask nursery managers for plants free of pesticides that might harm pollinators.

You can take the pledge to protect our pollinators by visiting the Xerces webpage today.