7 ways to celebrate National Pollinator Week

Pollinators like bees, birds and butterflies are crucial members of our ecosystem, but need our help.

U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr | Public Domain

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Anna Westbrook

Environment Illinois Protect Pollinators Intern

It’s National Pollinator Week — and we’re here to celebrate! National Pollinator Week is a great opportunity for kids, adults and everyone in between to learn about the species that hold entire ecosystems on their backs, as well as the threats that face them.

Bees are some of the most obvious and important pollinators, responsible for pollinating roughly one out of every three foods we eat in the United States. However, climate change, habitat fragmentation, disease and pesticide usage have devastated bee populations. In the past two decades, the American bumblebee population has dropped by 90%.

Birds and monarchs — two other important pollinators — are facing similar problems. In the last few decades, the vast majority of monarch butterflies have disappeared, and songbirds are being killed from ingesting toxic pesticides.

If these trends continue, there will be devastating effects beyond our food systems and throughout our environment.

I have good news, though: you can help protect pollinators. By celebrating National Pollinator Week, you’ll be joining a movement of scientists, activists and community leaders working to protect some of our most important and most vulnerable animal friends. Here are seven ways to get started.

Emily Kowalski | TPIN
  1. Plant native plants

Native plants have evolved over the centuries alongside local bees, butterflies and other species, adapting to each other and the area’s climate and soil conditions. Non-native plants are those that did not naturally evolve to grow in their areas, so they often have unfair competitive advantages that cause them to reproduce in abundance and crowd out native plants. This, in turn, cuts off important food supplies for animals who depend on the native plants. This causes a ripple effect in the food web, eventually affecting even top predators. Non-native plants can contribute to diminishing biodiversity when they outcompete native species, but by planting native plants in your garden, yard or balcony you can help to support your local ecosystem. 

For a list of pollinator-friendly native plants in your state, check out this database compiled by the Xerces Society. 

Additionally, consider planting native milkweed to support the struggling monarch butterfly population. Milkweed is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat, and habitat destruction has severely depleted its supply. 

  1. Explore a local pollinator garden

Spend an hour or two in a pollinator garden to witness pollinators in action firsthand. Pollinator gardens provide essential food, water and shelter for pollinators and other wildlife. They also serve human communities by purifying air and water, mitigating stormwater runoff and being aesthetically pleasing. 

Bring along a friend to a local pollinator garden! Walk through the garden or pick one spot to sit down and see how many pollinators you can spot in just twenty minutes. As the weather continues to warm this summer, the gardens will be abuzz with action.

Bee friendly garden
  1. Build a birdhouse

When people think of pollinators, birds aren’t often the first animal that comes to mind. But they’re incredibly important! Globally, there are 2,000 bird species that help to pollinate nectar bearing flowers. By building a birdhouse, you will be helping to support local bird populations as they nest, while also bringing birdwatching right to your own backyard.

When designing your birdhouse, consider using sustainable materials, like second-hand items, repurposed items and biodegradable materials. Here is a standard birdhouse blueprint, and here are slightly more complex birdhouse designs. 

Building a birdhouse is a great hands-on activity to do with kids that connects them with nature.

  1. Sign your name onto Environment Illinois’ Save the Bees campaign

Environment Illinois is working everyday to protect native pollinators. By adding your name to our petitions, you will help enact positive policy change at the local, state and national levels. These petitions make their way to the desks of the people with the authority to make decisions that directly affect the environment.

If you want to do more, use your power as a constituent to write or call your local representatives and talk to them directly about your passion for saving the bees and other pollinators. Or use your crafting skills to turn your delivery box into a bee and share on social media to build awareness.

Bee made out of an Amazon delivery box
  1. Write a letter to the editor about saving the bees

Writing a letter to the editor is a great way to reach a wide audience and raise awareness about an issue you are passionate about. Plus, elected officials often monitor letters to the editor. 

The best letters to the editor are short and sweet. Identify your point and stick with it. Rely on your authority as a concerned citizen or professional, and reference facts that support your point. End your letter with a call to action. For a more comprehensive guide to writing a good letter to the editor, check out this guide.

Remember, it may take some time to find a newspaper that will publish your work, but your writing has the potential to be very influential.

Emily Kowalski | TPIN
  1. Go birdwatching or bumblebee watching

This is an excellent way to get out of the house and spend some time with nature. You don’t need to be a professional birder or be able to identify all bee species to enjoy observing them in nature. If you want to know what species you’re looking at, check out an outdoor field guide from your public library or check to see if your local ornithological group is hosting any public birding events.

Consider involving the young people in your life with your pollinator watching. One of the best parts of interacting with young people is that all the wonders of the world are still new to them. Take advantage of their natural curiosity!

  1. Have a pollinator-less meal

About one third of the food we eat in the United States relies on pollination from bees, and 75 percent of all food crops globally rely on animal pollinators. To grasp the full implication of what it means for pollinator populations to continue declining, try crafting a pollinator-less meal. A quick hint: there would be no tea, coffee or honey and a very limited offering of fruits, vegetables, herbs and jam.

A pollinator-less meal is an excellent opportunity to invite company over and spark some conversation about the importance of pollinators and the threats that face them. For more information on the challenges pollinators are up against, read this article.


We’d love to see how you are celebrating pollinators this week. Share your adventures with us on social media @EnvironmentIL on Instagram and Environment Illinois on Facebook.


Emily Kowalski

Outreach & Engagement Manager, Environment Illinois

Emily manages the marketing and public engagement strategy for Environment Illinois's campaigns, including our campaign to protect the Great Lakes from plastic pollution. Emily lives in Chicago where she enjoys knitting and biking.

Anna Westbrook

Environment Illinois Protect Pollinators Intern

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