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.

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Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS[/caption]

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.

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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.

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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[/caption]

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.

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

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.

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Credit: Susan Wojtowicz/ USFWS[/caption]

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

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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.

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U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Region

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Northeast Region

Conserving wildlife and habitats from Maine to Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania.