Pollinators at Home

Make your backyard pollinator friendly with some of these helpful tips!

If you enjoy fruits, vegetables, and flowers then you will want to protect your local pollinators that make this magic happen. These local pollinators are bees, butterflies, beetles, birds, and bats. While the University of Pittsburgh continues to protect pollinators on campus, there are ways to beautify your own backyard and make it pollinator-friendly.

Plant Your Own Pollinator Garden

* Pick plants that have a variety of bloom times to ensure that pollinators are being supported from spring to fall.
* Plant native species that will support the pollinators in your area. For more information on what to plant in your location, check out the species list in Pitt’s Sustainable Landscape Design Guidelines or visit the NAPPC’s Eco-Regional Planting Guide.
* Plant a range of colors and flower shapes to attract different types of pollinators. For a short guide on which characteristics attract specific pollinators, visit the NAPPC’s Guide on Pollinator Syndromes.
* Plant in clumps rather than spacing singular plants out, pollinators are attracted to large patches of color.

Avoid Using Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals that can remove pests, however they end up harming much more than the initial target, including pollinators.

  • Accept harmless “pest” activity in your garden. For example, ladybugs are natural predators that can fight off harmful pests such as aphids, chinch bugs, spider mites, and more (Ladybugs as Pest Control).
  • Try removing pests by spraying water or by hand while wearing gloves.
  • Utilize companion planting. Certain plants repel different types of pests; for example, petunias, lavender, and allium species (such as onions, chives, and garlic) all repel different types of pests. For more information, visit Organic Gardening  Alternatives to Pesticides
  • Try using “soft” alternatives like diluted soap sprays or plant oils.

Provide Nesting Sites

Nesting sites are spaces where pollinators can reproduce and stay during the winter, sheltered from bad weather and predators.

  • Hummingbirds tend to nest in trees and shrubs, using plant materials, mosses, lichens, and spider webs to build their homes. Try leaving loose organic matter in the garden so birds have more material to nest with!
  • Plant specific species that butterflies can lay eggs on. For example, monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed. For more information on “host plants” visit Host Plants for Butterflies & Moths.
  • Provide nesting sites for native bees by maintaining a small, undisturbed patch of sparsely vegetated and well-drained ground. This is ideal for ground-nesting bees. Similarly, for carpenter bees, you can provide a wood nesting site through the following methods:
    • Leaving a dead tree nearby to provide a natural nesting site.
    • Cut back hollow stems when pruning shrubs.
  • Create an artificial nesting site by drilling holes into wood. For more information on how to create your own, visit How to Build a Bee Block

*All information, unless otherwise noted, is from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.