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You Can Make a Difference for Generations to Come!


Pollinator Partnership

UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab

Monarch Watch

Monarch Butterfly Garden


Butterfly Lady ( Puddling Pools)

Earthtouch News Network


Visit for more information on urban bee gardening!


North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC)for more information on pollinators and pollinator gardening!

423 Washington St. 5th Fl, San Francisco, CA 94111

(415) 362-1137

Native Seeds

Allendan Seeds - Winterset Iowa

Points to Ponder

  • Include your children in your gardening projects. My children and grandchildren love to be involved in whatever we are doing. 

  • Teach and prepare the next generation, we will need future pollinator ambassadors that will continue our efforts to protect and sustain our pollinators!  Forge a love for nature!

  • Review our page Just for Kids!

General Guidelines

Remember - what you do for one pollinator will most likely assist all pollinators!  However if you want to attract a specific pollinator, you will need to focus on their foraging/nutritional needs.  Whether you live on a farm or in an urban area, you can make a difference. 

Plant Pollinator Gardens

You can plant a pollinator garden in your yard, garden, farm, ranch, local community using native plants. Just remember to:

  • Go Native - plant native plant species

  • Bee Showy - flowers should bloom in your garden throughout the growing season

  • Bee Bountiful - plant big patches of each plant species

  • Bee Diverse - plant a diversity of flowering species that supply an abundance of pollen and nectar

  • Bee Chemical Free - limit or eliminate use of pesticides

    • Don’t use pesticides in your garden. If you must, use fast-acting, short-residual options, and apply at dusk when pollinators are least active.

  • Group several "bee" plants together in flowering patches of one meter squared, to increase overall attraction of the site to a greater diversity of bees.

Note:  In 2015, I created much larger landscaping areas, and pulled out most plants that were not adding value to our pollinators.  I love the double cone-flowers (these are highly hybridized, and don't provide much nectar or pollen), and they add such visual interest in my gardens, so I maintained those flowers as a border.  I also plant annuals that I love each year to add visual interest and a constant color in my landscaping.  Many annuals provide nectar for the pollinators. 


What to Plant – An Exotic Question

Bees, especially native bees, are more attracted to native plants than exotics. "Natives" occur naturally in a specific region; they were not introduced either intentionally or unintentionally to the area by humans or animals. Plants and animals native to elsewhere outside a given region are regarded as "exotics." In a Frankie et al. study (2002), California native plants were at least four times more likely to attract native bees. Why?

Many hybrid ornamental varieties have reduced rewards (pollen and nectar) for bees due to commercial attempts to make larger or showy flowers. Multi-petalled roses are an example.

Native bees have no historical relationship with exotic plants.


Bees Love these Plant Families (especially these species) Also see Planting Guides for your ecoregion.

  • Asteraceae – Daisy, Aster,

  • Sunflower family (Gaillardia grandiflora, Bidens ferufolia,

  • Coreopsis grandiflora,

  • Cosmos binnatus,

  • Helianthus annuus)

  • Fabaceae – Legume family

  • Lamiaceae – Mint, Lavender, Salvia family (Agastache and Lavandula species, Salvia uliginosa)

  • Polygonaceae – Buckwheat family

  • Rosaceae – Rose, Apple, Cherry,Strawberry, Raspberry family

  • Scrophulariaceae – Snapdragon,

  • Penstemon family (Hebe species, Linaria purpurea)

  • Other species –

    • Eryngium species (carrot family),

    • Geranium incanum (Geranium family),

    • Phacelia tanacetifolia (waterfall family),

    • Caryopteris species (verbena family),

    • Sedum species

Planting Guides

The Pollinator Partnership offers 32 different Planting Guides to improve pollinator habitat, each one tailored to a specific ecoregion in the United States. Each guide is filled with an abundance of native plant and pollinator information. Enter your zip code to find your ecoregion planting guide and download it for free.

Note:  I didn't have any luck using the zip code locator.  If you scroll down on the page, all of the planting guides are listed.  You may need to hunt and peck, but you will find your region by opening up the guides.  Each guide indicates the states that are covered.  For instance, for the states of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri, and parts of Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, use the Prairie Parkland guide


What Else Can You Do?

  • Learn about bees and other pollinators – and teach others of their importance

  • National Pollinator Week is the last week in June. You, your children and your community groups can become Pollinator Partnership participants and make a difference.

  • Get involved as a Pollinator Partner (

  • Provide a water source for bees.  I use a poultry galvanized feeder that I picked up at a farm implement store in Des Moines.  I just put rocks and small sticks in the rim so the bees have a landing. 

  • Review the USDA-ARS plan to combat the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder:

  • Install houses for bats and native bees

  • Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife

  • Reduce pesticide use

  • Substitute flower beds for lawns

  • Watch for pollinators

  • Volunteer for pollinator-friendly organizations and garden groups

  • Experience time outdoors and work with plants and animals

  • VOTE!  Make your voice be heard for conservation and pollinators

  • Reduce your impact on the environment

    • Buy locally produced or organic food

    • Walk, cycle, use public transit, carpool, telecommute

    • Reduce your consumption – reduce, recycle, reuse

Get Your Children Involved:  Young Steward Program

Finding pollinators in parks or your backyard is easy. You can also visit the website of our friends at the U.S. Forest Service to create some kid- and pollinator-friendly crafts like making your own perfume, building a native bee home, and recycling a soda bottle into a hummingbird feeder.

The Honey Bees

The Native Bees

Note:  Most native bees are unlikely to sting. Yellowjackets and wasps are not bees, nor are they significant crop pollinators. They are, however, fantastic predators of softbodied insect pests.

Bees are most active from February to November, longer in mild climates. The social bumble bee is often seen in any of these months, whereas the emergence and short (two to four weeks) active adult life of many solitary-nesting bees depends upon the species, and can occur from early spring to late summer. Therefore, a sequence of plants that provide a diversity of flowers throughout the growing season is necessary to support a diverse community of native bee species.  -


Bumble bees are some of our most efficient crop pollinators. When forage is available early in the growing season (like willow, red bud, maple, or manzanita), freshly emerged, overwintering bumble bee queens are more successful in establishing their colonies. Also, some solitary bees produce multiple generations each year, so reproductive success in the spring and early summer can lead to larger populations in the mid- to late-summer, when many fruits and vegetables are in bloom.


Remember to include plants that bloom in the fall. When plants such as goldenrod and asters are in bloom, some native bee species, as well as honey bees, will benefit from the abundant late-season forage. For example, the next year’s bumble bee queens will be able to go into hibernation with more energy reserves than they would otherwise.

Identify the best plants

Wherever possible, consider how to include trees that provide pollen and nectar for bees (see Table 1). Around and under each tree provide a diversity of plants that, together, produce continuous, abundant flowers.  For the maximum benefit to pollinators, as well as ease of implementation, consider the following criteria:

  • Locally native plants are generally well-adapted to an area’s growing conditions; can thrive with

minimum attention; are good sources of nectar and pollen for native bees; and are usually not


  • Flowers with a diversity of shapes, sizes, and colors will support the greatest variety of crop


  • Alternative, specialty crops provide a product for landowners and are also great for pollinators. For example, berry-producing shrubs such as blueberries and raspberries, ornamental plants such as curly willow and red twig dogwood, medicinal plants such as goldenseal, and hardwoods such as black cherry and maple all provide a harvestable crop as well as pollen and nectar for bees. 

    • Highly invasive plant species are aggressive and can spread to dominate other species; will reduce the diversity and value of the habitat; and will increase maintenance. Check with your county for code restrictions on noxious weed species.


Protect Potential Nesting Areas

All agroforestry plantings can provide excellent nesting opportunities for native bees. Therefore, the easiest approach to supporting native bees in a landscape is to look for potential nesting areas and then protect them as best as possible. Specifically:

• Retain dead or dying trees and branches whenever it is safe and practical. Wood-boring beetle larvae often fill dead trees and branches with narrow tunnels into which tunnel-nesting bees will move. In addition, retain rotting logs where some bee species may burrow tunnels in which to nest.

• Protect sloped or well-drained ground sites where plants are sparse and direct access to soil is available. These are the areas where ground nesting bees may dig nests. Native bee nests have been found in orchards, front yards, along farm roads, and even in cultivated fields.

• Leave some areas of the farm untilled and minimize weed control tillage. Turning the soil destroys all ground nests that are present at that depth and hinders the emergence of bees that are nesting deeper in the ground.

• Protect grassy thickets, or other areas of dense, low cover from mowing or other disturbance These are the sites where bumble bees might find the nest cavities they need, not to mention biennial or perennial forbs that can provide significant food resources (see Agroforestry Note 33: Improving forage for native bee crop pollinators).















Create homes for native bees!

Many of the wild bees you may encounter in your backyard garden make their burrow homes in the soil. Some bees create hives in snags (a dead or dying standing tree, often with its branches broken off), or in holes in trees. You can also encourage bee-residents by providing man-made nesting blocks or "Bee Condos."

It’s easy to build a "Bee Condo" for your native bees.



a 4"x6" or 6"x6" dried pine or fir post (or you can try a weathered fence post or other scrap wood)

Drill and drill bits, a variety of diameters, ranging from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in.

Paper straws – not plastic (available at some hardware stores, or through a scientific supply store), or small hollow sticks, with one end sealed

A warm location protected from rain and predators.



1. Cut the wooden posts into blocks 8-12 in. long.

2. Drill holes into the wood blocks using a variety of hole diameters from 1/4 in. to 3/8 in. Drill holes 3-5 in. deep, and at least 3/4 in. apart. Smooth out ragged edges of holes.

3. Alternatively, a bundle of paper straws or hollow sticks, with one end sealed, will make an attractive bee home.

4. Bees prefer dark colored homes, so consider charring the front of your "Bee Condo" lightly with a torch.

5. Mount your "Bee Condo" on a post or attach to the side of a building. Place nesting blocks so that tunnels are horizontal. Make sure they are in a warm location with southern exposure and protected from rain. A good place could be under the eaves of a garage or shed.

6. If you don’t want to build your own "Bee Condo," consider these commercial sources for bee nests:



Enhancing nest sites in the field

The following active management techniques may be employed to further increase nesting opportunities.


Solitary wood nesting bees

• Using a hand drill and a variety of drill bit sizes (from 3/32” (3 mm) to 5/16” (9 mm)), drill holes as deep as possible into downed dry wood sections. Erect the section upright like a fence post to simulate a beetle-tunneled snag. A variety of hole diameters will support a variety of different sized bee species. Face the holes south as much as possible.

• Using the same drill and bits, drill holes in stumps or standing dead wood, so long as the wood is not rotting or saturated with water. Angle the holes slightly upward to reduce water entry.

• Plant shrubs or other plants that have pithy stems. Every year, cut back some of the new growth to expose the pithy interior of the stems. Elderberry, boxelder, blackberries or raspberries (Rubus spp.), sumac, or dogwood are all good choices.

Solitary ground nesting bees

The precise conditions – soil type, soil texture, degree of compaction and moisture retention – needed

by most ground-nesting bees is not well known. However, the methods below could support a variety

of species. Colonization of these nest sites will depend upon the bees already present in the area, their successful reproduction and population growth, and the suitability of other nearby sites.

  • Wherever possible, avoid turning over soil. Bees need stable soil, and their progeny spend up to eleven months of the year underground. The more surface area left untilled, the more likely bees will find and colonize appropriate nest sites.

  • Clear some of the vegetation from a gently sloping or flat area. The goal is to remove thatch, making it easier for bees to access the soil below but still leaving some clumps of grass or other low-growing plants to prevent erosion.

  • The site should be well drained, in an open, sunny place, and, preferably, on a south-facing slope. Different ground conditions – from vertical banks to flat ground – will draw different bee species, so create a variety of partially bare patches and observe which ones best attract ground-nesting bees.


Bumble bees

Studies indicate that bumble bees often occupy the grassy interface between open fields and hedgerows or woods. This has been attributed to the presence of abandoned rodent nests in which bumble bees nest. Areas of habitat suitable for bumble bees should include a mix of native grasses and forbs abutting shrubs or trees. The grass area needs to be at least five feet wide and mowed only every two or three years. Always mow in the late fall or winter, after the colonies have died for the year and when queens are dormant.

Building nests for the field

Solitary wood nesting bees

Tunnel nesters will use a variety of structures that mimic beetle holes in wood or the centers of pithy stems. Simply drill holes in blocks of wood, or tie a bundle of paper straws or hollow stems together.  Include a range of hole sizes to attract a variety of different bees who are active at different times in the year. Mount these blocks with tunnels horizontal in a location that receives morning sun, but has some protection from rain and the extremes of midday sun and heat in the summer. Generally, erect nests at least four feet above the ground.

Solitary ground nesting bees

Create a stable pile of soil, at least two feet high, perhaps after excavating ditches or ponds, or grading fields. Different species of bees nest in different soil types, but the soil should be at least 35 percent sand. If necessary, contain the pile with walls of lumber or bricks. Experiment by creating piles with different soil mixtures or by placing piles in locations that receive different amounts of sun.

Bumble bees

Bumble bees may move into small boxes (cubes 7 inches on a side) packed lightly with upholsters’ cotton. Note that even under the best conditions, only about 5 to 25 percent of nest boxes may become colonized.

Other Considerations

Besides the basic nest structures or features needed by native bees, a few other resources are important for successful nesting.  

• First, different bee species – particularly tunnel-nesting solitary bees – need various materials to construct their brood cells and seal their nests. A few bees secrete a cellophane-like substance to protect their brood cells, but most use gathered materials, such as pieces of leaf or flower petals, mud, fine pebbles, or tree resins. Most likely these materials are already present, but providing a diversity of native plants and protecting areas with damp clay will help.

• Second, bumble bee queens need protected sites in which to overwinter. These often occur in the soft humus, leaf litter, or other sites protected from extreme winter weather into which they can burrow.

• Finally, a bee’s nest is a home base from which to scour the surrounding landscape for nectar and pollen. It is important to provide all of the nectar and pollen that bees need. The closer nest sites are located to pollen and nectar sources, the less energy female bees need to spend commuting back and forth, and the more resources they can put into their offspring.  As a result, they will produce more offspring, and grow their populations over time. In addition, if nest sites are located close to abundant nectar and pollen (within 250 meters), the bees are less likely to forage where they may encounter insecticides or other hazards that are outside of a grower’s control.

Mulch Madness

You happen to be one of the many ground-nesting bees that looks for garden sites for digging small tunnels where you will lay your eggs in individually-made brood cells that you will provision with pollen and some nectar. But something has happened in recent years to those favored bare dirt sites that makes your task much harder and oftentimes impossible. MULCH MADNESS has arrived and has become a highly promoted “eco-friendly” method for suppressing weeds, conserving water, and unknowingly discouraging ground-nesting bees! Equally bad for ground nesters is BPI, or better known in the trade as Black Plastic Insanity, that is, the laying down of plastic products over bare soil to accomplish the same goals as MM.

So what is the big deal about bare dirt and bees? Between 60-70% of the native bee species dig tunnels in soil and provision a series of nest cells, each of which will contain one new bee offspring. To do this the female must find a patch of bare dirt, excavate a tunnel and then make repeated visits between the tunnel entrance and flowers for their pollen and nectar. If a nest-searching female encounters 1-2 inches of mulch or plastic where there should be bare dirt, she will not excavate through this material and will leave in search of an appropriate site. When a high number of gardeners in an area mulch or plasticate their soil, this can have a negative impact on bee populations. In a recent casual survey of 200 gardeners, from 40-60% said they were mulchers!


To put MM and BPI into context, consider all the other challenges that urban bees face. There are numerous natural enemies of bees that include hungry birds, spiders, and a variety of predatory insects. One could then add the high number of exotic plant types (about 95%) that urbanites use in gardens that are of little or no food value to bees native bees prefer native plants over exotics by a very high margin). Then come all the chemicals that urbanites use to control or enhance this or that problem, many of which are toxic to bees. Finally, MM and BPI get added to the list of all the other areas in urban environments that are covered: pavement, concrete, building footprints, lawns, etc. It is amazing that bees colonize urban areas. If they only had the knowledge that we have!

So, what to do about MM or BPI?  Develop practices that encourage native bees. Don’t use synthetic chemicals; plant lots of attractive natives and a few attractive exotics; and don’t use mulch or plastic. Hand-weed and water. Many home gardeners many not be able to adopt all of the bee-friendly practices. So, recommendations are to set goals and keep synthetic disruptions at a minimum if you want to encourage interesting wildlife in your garden. In the case of mulch and plastic, if you must use it, do so sparingly, leaving about 50% of your garden in bare dirt – for the bees and other useful organisms.


The monarch migration occurs twice every year. Nectar from flowers provides the fuel monarchs need to fly. If there are not any blooming plants to collect nectar from when the monarchs stops, they will not have any energy to continue. Planting monarch flowers that bloom when they will be passing will help the monarchs reach their destination. Creating more monarch habitat will help work to reverse their decline.

Plant Host and Nectar Plants

There are over 100 milkweed species that are native to North America, many of which are used by monarchs.  To learn which species to plant in your region, and how to plant them, visit the Bring Back the Monarchs Campaign at:


  • Plant milkweed! Monarch caterpillars need milkweeds to grow and develop. There are over 100 milkweed species that are native to North America, many of which are used by monarchs. To learn which species to plant in your region, and how to plant them, visit the Bring Back the Monarchs Campaign at:

  • Plant butterfly nectar plants! Monarchs need nectar to provide energy as they breed, for their migratory journey, and to build reserves for the long winter.

  • Include butterfly plants in your garden, and avoid using pesticides.

  • The Monarch Watch organization has a Milkweed Market that provides details on where to purchase plants/seeds. 

  • They also have restoration projects where you may be able to get free seeds. 


A planting guide for Eastern United States

Conservation and Management of Monarch Butterflies:

A Land Management Restoration Guide for the Eastern U.S.

Planting List Provided by

Download the FREE Monarch Plant List in PDF format

Planting List Provided by Monarch Watch


Note:  Focus on the plants bolded in black. 

Don't forget the annual flowers.  We plant Mexican Sunflowers every year, and the Monarchs congregate on them the entire season.  These plants have a very stout stem - attempt to plant them in a wind-sheltered area. 

Another great nectar plant for the butterflies is the Butterfly Bush.  There is a good article relative to butterfly bushes here.  I have several butterfly bushes in my landscapes, and various butterflies are a regular guest at these bushes!

Your butterfly garden can be any size, from a window box to a portion of your landscaped yard to a wild, untended area on your lot. You can include native plants, cultivated species, or both.

Monarch Waystations Habitats

Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall. Similarly, without nectar from flowers these fall migratory monarch butterflies would be unable to make their long journey to overwintering grounds in Mexico. The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world.

To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources we need to create, conserve, and protect milkweed/monarch habitats. We need you to help us and help monarchs by creating "Monarch Waystations" (monarch habitats) in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels.

By creating and maintaining a Monarch Waystation you are contributing to monarch conservation, an effort that will help assure the preservation of the species and the continuation of the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.

Once you have planted your waystation, register it:

Register & Certify Your Monarch Waystation Site


What Else Can You Do?

  1. Encourage public land managers to create monarch habitat! Roadsides and parks of all sizes offer great opportunities to create habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.

  2. Join citizen-science efforts to track monarch populations! The data collected by hundreds of citizen scientists across the country are used by monarch scientists to decipher monarch population trends, and to learn more about what might be driving their numbers from year to year.

  3. Support monarch conservation efforts. There are a number of monarch conservation efforts underway doing very good work. Please consider donating to support these monarch conservation efforts.


Create a butterfly puddling pool.

Butterflies and kids share an affinity for mud puddles. Although kids splash for sport, butterflies assemble around puddles to fulfill their need for salt and nutrients -- a behavior called “puddling.” You can entreat more butterflies to visit your backyard by adding a puddling pool to the flower garden.





General Guidelines
The Honey Bees
The Native Bees
The Monarch Butterflies

Burrowed nest.

Bumble bee nest in overhanging forage plants.

Table 1

Don’t worry if native bees nest close to homes.  Solitary bees are gentle and very reluctant to sting. Bumble bees are not aggressive unless their nests are exposed or they are harassed. If we respect their needs, they will ignore us.  Photo by Matthew Shepherd, Xerces Society.

Puddling Behavior -

Picture by EarthTouch News Network

On the following website, about 3/4's of the way down on the page, you will find Walter Reeves of the University of Georgia Extension Service building a butterfly puddle and fruit-feeding station for butterflies:


Puddling Behavior

To design a successful puddling pool, all you have to do is duplicate butterflies’ natural preferences. Butterflies prefer the safety of puddles instead of backyard ponds and birdbaths, which can overwhelm them. Even in shallow puddles, butterflies congregate around the damp edges instead of landing in the water. Sometimes, their favorite spots are where water has already evaporated from a puddle but the ground is still moist. They visit puddling sites during the heat of the day, typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.


Suitable Containers

You can make a puddling pool with a shallow pan or dish you may already have, such as a plastic or terracotta plant saucer or pie tin. Fill the container with sand or gravel and bury it to the rim in the butterfly garden, placing it in a sunny area out of strong winds. Because you have to keep the pool wet, you’ll need to refill shallow pans often. Optionally, you can fill a bucket with sand or gravel and bury it to its rim. You’ll still have to keep the bucket filled with water, but you may not have to refill it as often.

Water Sources

To keep the puddling pool consistently moist, you may need to water it every day in hot weather, particularly if you use a shallow dish instead of a bucket. By being resourceful, however, you can piggyback the pool’s water source on top of something else -- or take advantage of a nearby faucet. If you use soaker hoses or drip emitters to irrigate your garden, position a section of the hose or an emitter over the puddling pool. If you have a faucet in an open area, you can adjust it to drip slowly into the pool.


Add Minerals

Butterflies visit puddles more for the salt and minerals than the water. Typically, they receive enough moisture from the nectar they sip from flowers, but the sugary nectar lacks the salt male butterflies need. Males frequent butterfly puddling pools more than females because of the males’ need for salt and other nutrients, which they pass to the females with their sperm. Puddling nutrients also help the males to produce pheromone, the chemical that males release to attract females. After you’ve made a puddling pool, add overripe fruit, stale beer, or leaf or manure compost from time to time to provide the salt and nutrients backyard butterflies need.

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