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Helping pollinators threatened by climate change

Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plantWe rely on pollinators including native bees, butterflies, and birds to pollinate fruits and vegetables like apples, tomatoes, pumpkins, and strawberries. Pollination is also critical to produce oils, fibers, biofuels, and dairy and meat products. 

There are thousands of native pollinators in Minnesota, including over 400 species of bees.

The threats to pollinators 

Butterflies, bees, and other pollinators are in serious decline from habitat loss, climate change impacts, disease, parasites and pesticide use. Several of Minnesota’s insect pollinators have been listed as threatened and endangered. 

You can help Minnesota’s pollinators in your yard or garden. Planting native plants results in a beautiful, low-maintenance yard and garden that provides habitat, pollen and nectar for Minnesota’s pollinators as well as captures carbon to help fight climate change. 

Gardening for pollinators

Pollinator garden with flowers of many different colorsIf you have a garden (even a small garden) you can help pollinators by transforming it into a place they can find food, nectar, and pollen. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on your pollinator garden.

Think variety

Grow a variety of native plants that flower throughout the year. This will provide diverse food sources for a variety of pollinators.

Leave your garden messy

Last year’s plants, leaves, seedheads and stems provide important overwintering and nesting habitat. Leave them on the ground to help pollinators.

Pollinator-friendly yards

Yard with grass and gardens by a pondReplace grass

Provide habitat for pollinators (and cut down on yard work!) by replacing grass in areas where it doesn’t grow well or are difficult to maintain with low-growing native plants.

Plants that are commonly used include wild lupine and purple prairie clover. These plants provide food for pollinators and are inexpensive to plant and maintain.

Remove pavement

Remove pavement when possible to combat the urban heat island effect. Insect pollinators are sensitive to temperature variations.

Replacing surfaces like pavement and asphalt with gravel or plants helps to reduce temperature stressors on pollinators. This will also have added benefits for water quality! 

Plant a tree

Plant a tree (or trees!) in your yard to have big impacts. Trees help capture carbon, provide shade to reduce energy use needed for cooling, and increase your property value. Learn more about the impacts tree have on climate change and find a list of good tree species for planting here.

Eliminate pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizer

Close up of sign in garden bed that says pesticide freeReduce or eliminate your use of pesticides and herbicides. If herbicides are necessary, spot-treat weeds and do not treat your entire yard or garden. Never use pesticides or herbicides if rain is in the forecast over the next two days.

Avoid using chemical fertilizer if possible. Use compost as a natural fertilizer.

If using store-bought fertilizers, only use ones that contain zero phosphorus and only fertilize in the fall. 

Resources to help you take action

Other actions

trees at a park

The climate-fighting power of trees

May is Arbor Month, and this year we’re celebrating the important role that trees play in fighting climate change and getting to net zero greenhouse gas emissions. Learn about the climate benefits of trees and steps you can take to protect them.

water spout to grass

Keeping rainwater in your yard

Keeping rainwater on your yard is a good way to prevent localized flooding and protect water quality.

composting

Composting at home

Turn your fruit and vegetable scraps and yard waste into compost you can use in your garden. The county sells compost bins to help you get set up.