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Photo by Cathy Law

Building & Restoring Habitat  for Pollinators

Providing habitat for pollinators is very simple.

Remember, even a small garden with floral resources can make a difference!

How to get started...

  • Recognize existing habitat that is already present and suitable for pollinators.

    • Take inventory of existing flowers.

    • Identify existing bee nest sites.

  • Protect habitat and managing it in a way that benefits the pollinators already present.

    • Take note of structures present that could become nest sites.

    • Benign neglect (rotting logs, rock piles, and brush piles) can be beneficial! 

  • Provide new habitat or expand existing habitat.

    • Increase available foraging habitat to include a diverse range of plants that flower at different times to provide pollen throughout the season.

    • Create nesting and overwintering sites by providing suitable ground conditions, tunnel-filled lumber, bundled paper straws, or holes drilled in pieces of wood.

    • Do not use pesticides!

  • Set up a management plan that continues to maintain the habitat and minimizes disturbance to pollinators.

    • Large areas may need mowing or light and slow burning to limit tree and shrub growth.

    • Manicured gardens can be kept free of competing grasses and nectar-poor species.

    • Did I mention this already? Don’t use pesticides!

  • For monitoring tips and suggestions for pollinators species, see Pollinator Monitoring.​


Before you jump into a project…

What are your options for placement of habitat? How will it be maintained over time? What is the size of your budget? Is this a public or private site? Are there possible sources of funding? Will you include volunteers or citizen scientists? 


Once you know the type of project, consider…

Habitat size and shape: Patches that are bigger, rounder, and closer to other patches are best.

Sun exposure: It's best to have good sun exposure.

Soil conditions: You want generally fertile soil, but also best to test for herbicide residue, drainage, salinity, pH organic content and compaction. (Cooperative Extension often helps with these types of analysis.)

Site Maintenance: Native plants are the best choice because they require the least overall maintenance over time.

Planting layout: Research suggests that flower groupings of at least 3 feet in diameter of an individual species are more attractive to pollinators than individual plants that are widely dispersed.

Plant diversity: Critical factor. However, this must be weighed against cost – 50 different plants may not be as good as 10 high-nectar plants. More studies are needed to determine the best relationship between diversity and “magnet species” plantings.

Online Resources:

Xerces Society (most amazing organization for pollinators out there!)


Pollinator Friendly Plants for the Northeast United States

Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists

Conservation Cover for Pollinators in New England (Technical Manual)

Regional Native Plant Lists

Plant Lists for Nectar Corridors


Building Nests for Native Bees


Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States


Managing Alternative Pollinators


Attracting Native Pollinators


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