Providing Pollinators More than Just Flowers - U of I Extension

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Providing Pollinators More than Just Flowers

This article was originally published on July 26, 2018 and expired on August 15, 2018. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Over the past few years, there has been a big push to create pollinator habitat. The focus has shifted from just butterflies to a much wider variety of pollinators. More houses have flowers planted around them with the intention to attract more of these pollinators to their yards. There needs to be much more than just flowers if we are going to have a positive impact on pollinator populations.

When creating any habitat, four elements need to be available; food, water, shelter, and space. To successfully attract and keep a wide variety of pollinators all four elements need to be available.

  1. Food- Food is the easiest one for people to think about. It is also one that is not always fully provided. There needs to be food throughout the growing season. Plant flowers that bloom throughout the year.  Trees and shrubs are important as well. Most flowering trees and shrubs bloom in the spring and provide an early food source for the pollinators. Choosing native flowering plants is a much better choice. They are much more beneficial because they provide food for a much wider variety of pollinators and they also do not pose a potential threat to the wider ecosystem. Most pollinators need more than just flowers. Flowers provide a food source for adult pollinators but young pollinators (larva) require a different food source. Planting a wide variety of plants will provide a food source for a wide variety of pollinators both adult and larval.
  2. Water- Water is very easy to provide but is often forgotten. Providing water can be as easy as filling birdbaths. Adding rocks and gravel to a birdbath provides more surfaces for pollinators to utilize. Most pollinators get much-needed minerals like salt from moisture in the soil. Having wet open soil where both moisture and minerals can be found provides for both moisture and needed minerals.
  3. Shelter- Shelter is one part of a habitat that is often not considered, particularly when it comes to pollinators. Shelter can be very easy to provide. A wide variety of shelter is needed when thinking about pollinators. Digging pollinators, like bumble bees, need open soil. Having spaces in your yard where there is no grass or mulch would provide for this need. “Pollinator hotels” provide habitat for a number of types of pollinators and range from the very simple to the complex. A simple design could be a group of logs or untreated 4 by 4’s with holes drilled for pollinators to use. Or, you could get on Pinterest and find hundreds of designs to choose from to make a “fancy pollinator hotel”.
  4. Space- Space is one of the easiest needs to provide. Boulders or flagstones can be used for sunning areas and having open areas is all that is required to fulfill this need.

Pollinators provide interest and movement to our yards but also play an important role in agriculture and can reduce pest populations.

If you have any questions about attracting pollinators or general natural resource questions please contact Jason Haupt (


Source: Jason Haupt, Extension Educator, Energy and Environmental Stewardship,

Pull date: August 15, 2018