Tag Archives: pollinator garden

Building a garden paradise for pollinators in Rhode Island and in your own backyard

This week is National Pollinator Week (June 19-24), and here at the USFWS we are excited to be joining in on the celebration because we know how critical it is to keep pollinators around. They are incredibly important to human life, as they are essential to growing the food we eat. According to a 2016 study from the USDA, more than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops require pollination. If you eat honey, peaches, berries, or even coffee, thank a pollinator. But unfortunately, their numbers are declining, which could eventually impact the availability of these dietary staples. The good news is that you can help protect them by providing the habitat and food resources they need to survive!

So what can you do to help? It’s simple: build a pollinator garden. With a little planning and some shopping, you can design and build your very own pollinator garden and play host to so many wonderful pollinators, including bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other small animals and insects.  All it takes is a little work, and you can provide a versatile habitat for these animals.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS

Tips to starting your pollinator garden:

Use plants native to where you live 

Native plants attract native pollinators. A successful and thriving pollinator garden needs to have both. Native plants are great because they are already adapted to survive in the local climate and soil, and attract the right pollinators.

Unsure about the plants native to where you live? We have provided you with a list of plants native to the Northeast Region (New England states and eastern New York) and to the Mid-Atlantic Region (Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.). You can also visit your local garden store or nursery for recommendations on the types of plants that are best suited to your area.

Plant in clusters to create a “target’ for pollinators to find

Birds, bats, bees, and butterflies (and many others) can’t pollinate a flower if they can’t find it. This is where you can help: try planting large, concentrated clusters of the same plant species, rather than one single plant. This makes it easier for passing pollinators to see them and stop.


While this photo wasn’t taken at a pollinator garden it is a good example of using a variety of plants to attract pollinators. The two plants shown are Jesup’s Milk Vetch (the lilac-colored flower) and Red Columbine (the red and yellow flower) both of which get help from pollinators. Credit: USFWS

Interested in attracting butterflies to your pollinator garden? Here are 7 tips for creating a successful monarch butterfly pollinator garden

Use a variety of plants in your garden

Like us, pollinators need a place to rest and a place to eat. You can help provide this oasis by planting a mixture of native host plants and nectar plants. This variety will provide the necessary food and shelter that many different types of pollinators need to survive. Make your garden habitat a one-stop-shop for pollinators.


Skipper butterfly on a garden phlox at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, PA. Credit: Frank Miles/USFWS

If you want to learn more about how to create a pollinator-friendly landscape click here

Avoid or limit the use of pesticides in your garden

Remember that harmful chemicals have no place in your garden habitat. Pesticides can kill more than the target pest; they can also kill the very pollinators you are trying to attract. If you find you are having a pest problem, try introducing native predators (for example, praying mantis) into your garden and let them eat the pests.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS

Still needing inspiration?

We have good news! With close to 72 National Wildlife Refuges in the Northeast region alone- from Virginia to Maine- you are all but guaranteed to find a amazing example of a pollinator garden near you.

One of these incredible pollinator gardens is at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island. Here you can explore four native-plant pollinator gardens designed for different environmental conditions including: a shade garden, wet garden, sun garden and butterfly garden. Visitors are encouraged to walk among the beautiful native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs abuzz with bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and songbirds, and take in the plants, animals, and habitats native to the State. The gardens are located next to the Kettle Pond Visitor Center.

Check out these photos taken at the garden at Ninigret NWR below

Or you can attend a public tour of the native plant garden at Ninigret NWR on Saturday , June 23 and learn how you can incorporate native plants to your garden.

We hope this has inspired you to build your very own backyard pollinator garden.


Seeds for Spring

Fall is in full swing; leaves are falling and monarch butterflies have arrived in Mexico for the winter.   In preparation for their return, National Wildlife Refuges and Fish Hatcheries throughout the Northeast are busy as bees preparing for pollinators this coming spring. Some of the great pollinator projects happening the fall include gardens and schoolyard habitats, outreach events, and planning summer camps, but these only begin to scratch the surface of the magnitude of the efforts to conserve these iconic species. Below is a map identifying field stations in the Northeast that received pollinator seeds and materials to begin projects or continue existing projects this fall.

Like many refuges across the region, Iroquois NWR has been fervently engaged in enhancing pollinator awareness.  Not only do they perform extensive pollinator outreach, sharing with young people the miraculous journey that monarchs make each year and their fundamental role in plant reproduction, but they also host student research that focuses on the impact of habitat management actions on monarch populations. Iroquois NWR is happy to announce that late October should give rise to a new and improved garden for pollinators when visiting administrative staff from the Northeast will reclaim and enhance the space using seed donated from the Monarch Conservation Initiative.  This will allow us to expand our efforts, using it as a teaching tool and garnering more support for these invertebrates that we hold dear!

In New Jersey, Cape May National Wildlife Refuge plans to plant a pollinator garden at the Two Mile Beach Unit in Wildwood Crest this fall so that the plants are ready to burst into growth in early spring. The garden will be strategically placed along the bike path and visible from the Dune Trail so hundreds of walkers and bikers alike can easily view the area. Interpretive signage will be utilized to convey the importance and purpose of pollinator gardens and grown plants will be labeled so interested individuals can know what beneficial plants to grow in their own backyard. The chosen area is surrounded by the marshland, grassland, maritime forest, and beach habitats on the Two Mile Beach Unit so the garden will lend itself to the already diverse array of habitats and pollinators will likely seek out the area. The Refuge looks forward to being a small haven for pollinators come spring and sharing that with visitors.

At the New England Field Office, Endangered Species Biologist Susi von​ ​Oettingen​ and Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Ted Kendziora​ are teaming up with ​​the New England Hemophilia Association ​to bring pollinators to ​NEHA’s Family Summer ​Camp ​​​​and the Geneva Point Conference Center next year. With ​​monarchs and bees on the decline, seeds will be used to create a pollinator garden with native wildflowers to benefit all pollinators. Students will have the opportunity to get hands on with seed and planting activities to create new habitat while learning the important ties these species have to agriculture and native ecosystems. The pollinator garden will be a permanent feature of the Center for visitors from other camps, conferences, school groups and special events to see and learn about.

Are you interested in helping create habitat at home or in your local community? Learn more about how you can help protect monarchs and pollinators.

From Pollinator Gardens to Wildlife Refuges: Introducing Students to Green Spaces

Today we’re hearing from Emilie Seavey, DFP intern at the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program office, who’s sharing her experience working on urban outreach initiatives in the Portland area. Emilie has united students with nature in a variety of ways this summer, from planting pollinator gardens to facilitating field trips to National Wildlife Refuges. Special thanks to Kirstin Underwood who instrumental in making these outreach initiatives happen, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and partners at Maine Audubon. 

A mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, French, Somali, Arabic, Swahili, Lingala, and Kirundi immediately filled the air as we watched fifty high school students file off the school bus and into the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge parking lot.

Gulf of Maine Coastal Program biologist Kirstin Underwood, assistant refuge manager Ryan Kleinert, outreach intern Cassie Cain, Maine Conservation Corps environmental steward Rebekah Smith and I greeted the crowd with trail maps, Piping Plover temporary tattoos, and as much enthusiasm as we could manage.

These students – representing over a dozen countries, including Syria, Tanzania, and Guatemala – are English language learners, taking summer classes at Deering High School in Portland, Maine in order to gain proficiency in English before returning to school in the fall. Most of the students have been living in the U.S. for less than a year and, after talking with students and teachers, we learned that many students did not have access to safe green spaces in their home countries.

Kirstin and I only met this group a few weeks ago, when we came to visit the high school with Eric Topper, the Maine Audubon outreach coordinator, to help the students plant a pollinator garden. After a few mornings of weeding, shoveling compost, and planting milkweed, Kirstin had a crazy idea: if we could bring a green space to the students, could we bring the students to a green space?

Within a matter of hours, Kirstin reached out to the folks at Rachel Carson NWR, and the refuge offered funding to pay for a school bus. Kirstin and I visited the students again to provide them with some information about the history of the refuge and some animals they might see during their visit. Many of the students wanted to know if they would encounter poisonous snakes or other dangerous animals, and we quickly realized the importance of emphasizing that we were going to a green space where everyone would feel safe and comfortable.


Students, teachers, and USFWS staff enjoyed a quick walk on the refuge trails. Credit: Kirstin Underwood/USFWS

The day of the field trip finally arrived. As we handed the students bird and plant guides, I could tell that all the visitors, teachers included, were excited to spend the morning outside rather than in the classroom. We took off down the trail, stopping at various viewing decks that looked out over the salt marsh. The students spotted everything from Great Blue Herons to eastern chipmunks as they fussed over pairs of shared binoculars. Ryan, Cassie, and Rebekah managed to keep up in answering the constant stream of questions from both the students and the teachers.

While some students were enthusiastic to check out the wildlife, others preferred sitting quietly or chatting with friends. After walking the trail, students wandered over to the small pollinator garden near the visitor center to practice plant identification. No matter what they chose to do with their short time at the refuge, it was a relief to see that people were relaxed and enjoying themselves.

We watched the students file back onto the bus after exchanging a few fist bumps and jumping into some selfies. Later that week, Molly Callahan, who leads the English language learning program, reached out to us to say that several of the students had come to her to say that they enjoyed the birds and the scenery and that they would like to go back to the refuge with their families. It was a successful first introduction to the National Wildlife Refuge system, and we hope for many, many more to come