The Xerces Society produces dozens of publications each year to share the latest science-based conservation information; guide conservation efforts; and support farmers, gardeners, and other invertebrate enthusiasts in creating healthy habitat for the "little things that run the world."
The pollinator resources found on this page support habitat restoration throughout the mainland United States and Canada.
With the advent of chemical pesticides, the contributions of beneficial insects (those that prey upon or parasitize crop pests) were largely forgotten. However, pesticides alone have not solved the problem of crop pests—and of course, pesticides can have widespread, harmful impacts.
Conservation biological control (CBC) seeks to integrate beneficial insects back into crop systems for natural pest control. This strategy is based upon ongoing research that now demonstrates a link between the conservation of natural habitat and reduced pest problems on farms.
Bees are the most important group of pollinators. With the exception of a few species of wasps, only bees deliberately gather pollen to bring back to their nests for their offspring. Bees also exhibit a behavior called flower constancy, meaning that they repeatedly visit one particular plant species on any given foraging trip.
All bumble bees belong to the genus Bombus within the family Apidae. The family Apidae includes the well-known honey bees and bumble bees, as well as carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, digger bees, stingless bees, and orchid bees. Bumble bees are important pollinators of wild flowering plants and crops. As generalist foragers, they do not depend on any one flower type. However, some plants do rely on bumble bees to achieve pollination. Loss of bumble bees can have far ranging ecological impacts due to their role as pollinators.
Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are the required host plants for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly and thus play a critical role in the monarch’s life cycle. The loss of milkweed plants in the monarch’s spring and summer breeding areas across the United States is believed to be a significant factor contributing to the reduced number of monarchs recorded in overwintering sites in California and Mexico.
The Xerces Society partners with the native seed industry to produce wildflower seed mixes meeting Xerces specifications, to provide foraging and nesting resources for a diversity of pollinators. For details about species composition, recommended seeding rate, and how to contact the producer, please download the specification sheet for each seed mix.
The importance of site-preparation cannot be overstated. Before planting, you will need to eliminate existing undesirable vegetation, eradicate weeds, remove plant debris, and ensure you have a clean surface that will facilitate good seed to soil contact or be cleared for using transplants.
Successful pollinator habitat provides resources for the entire life-cycle. While pollen and nectar sources support adult bees and butterflies, you need to also provide adequate nesting habitat if you want pollinators to live in your landscape rather than just pass through. There are many ways to provide nesting resources through natural and man-made features or simply by changing land management practices. Below is an overview of the nesting needs of bees and butterflies.
Bees and other pollinators touch our lives every day in ways we may not realize. They are responsible for as much as one third of the food and drinks that we consume, and contribute to the production of our clothes. They help define our seasons: The flowering meadows of spring, the berries of summer, the pumpkins we carve for Halloween and eat at Thanksgiving, and the southward migration of monarchs that signifies the approach of Dia de Los Muertos.
While we often think about the impacts of pesticides used in agriculture, they are also commonly used in urban environments. Pesticides are applied in homes, yards, gardens, parks, and schools, among other places. Many of these pesticide applications can be avoided, benefitting both the wildlife that surrounds us and our own health. The Xerces Society works to help communities and residents reduce the use of pesticides in urban environments through trainings and resources on proactive alternative pest management.