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Pledge to Bring Back the Pollinators—on Earth Day and Every Day

By Matthew Shepherd on 22. April 2019
Matthew Shepherd

Consider taking these simple steps to make the world better for bees, butterflies, and other essential invertebrates.

Pollinators touch all of our lives, including through the food and flowers that they help to provide. Around 85% of flowering plants, including many crops, need a pollinator to reproduce. As much as one-third of our food supply relies on the work of bees, and pollinators are at the heart of resilient ecosystems. They also need a healthy environment to thrive—and bees and many other creatures are unfortunately in decline. During Earth Week 2019, we are asking you to consider taking simple steps to make the world better for bees, butterflies, and other essential invertebrates.


Metallic green sweat bee rests in a cosmos flower
Metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon sp.) resting in a cosmos flower. (Photo: Matthew Shepherd)


The Xerces Society’s Bring Back the Pollinators campaign is based on four principles:

  1. Grow a variety of pollinator-friendly flowers to provide the nectar and pollen bees need.  

  2. Provide shelter. Ensure there are nest sites for bees, host plants for caterpillars, and places pollinators can overwinter.

  3. Avoid using pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, because they are harmful to pollinators.

  4. Spread the word by talking to your friends and neighbors.


Why these four principles? Pollinator conservation must provide for the entire life cycle of bees and butterflies. That means flowers for the adults and a place for the young to develop. Bees make nests in narrow tunnels in old snags or by digging in bare ground. Butterflies need the right kinds of plants for caterpillars to eat. (As a pollinator gardener, you must be prepared for holes in your plants!) Keeping the flowers free of insecticides will make them safer for nectar-sipping bees and leaf-munching caterpillars.


Woodland skipper on English lavender
Butterflies such as this woodland skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides) will be attracted to nectar, but need caterpillar host plants to complete their life cycle. (Photo: Matthew Shepherd)


The fourth principle can be as simple as talking to your neighbors to encourage them to adopt pollinator-friendly gardening or installing a pollinator habitat sign. You can also write letters to your local newspaper, contact your park managers and ask them to make changes, or launch a campaign for your community to become a Bee City USA.

These four principles can be adapted to any location. In a garden, for example, you grow nectar-rich flowers such as coneflower, goldenrod, and asters as well as make sure there is bare ground available for nesting and stop using pesticides. A city park could develop an IPM plan to minimize pesticide use and look for areas where a small pollinator meadow could grow. On farms, hedgerows can grow along tracksides, wildflowers can bloom on creek banks, and flowering cover crops can bring fertility back to the soil.


A pollinator habitat sign standing among an abundance of flowers in a suburban front yard.
Adding a pollinator habitat sign is a simple way to show why your garden looks as beautiful as it does, and might give your neighbors a reason to rethink their own gardening. (Photo: Matthew Shepherd)


For practical information about what you can do, including regional pollinator plant lists, visit

We urge you to sign the Pollinator Protection Pledge, agreeing to follow these four simple yet vital principles. We make a commitment to work every day to help pollinators, and hope that you will join us in these efforts—on this Earth Day, and every day!


Additional Resources

Learn how to support pollinators and other invertebrates by reading our Earth Week blogs!

Learn more about the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Program.


Matthew has spent more than 35 years working with people from all walks of life to create better places for wildlife. His career began in England and took him to Kenya before his arrival in the United States. He has worked for the Xerces Society for over two decades, initially at the vanguard of the movement to protect pollinators, but he shifted to communications, and now community engagement and conservation in towns and cities. Matthew is author of numerous articles and other publications, including Attracting Native Pollinators (Storey Publishing, 2011) and Gardening for Butterflies (Timber Press, 2016).

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