Why Pollinators Matter:
We can thank pollinators for at least every third bite of food we eat. That is, approximately 75% of the worlds flowering plants and 35% of our food crops rely on animal pollinators to reproduce. They’re also necessary for the plants we use for spices, medicines, raw materials, and even fabrics. Indirectly, we also rely on pollinators for clean air, healthy habitats, and beautiful landscapes. This is because without pollinators, plant communities world wide could collapse.
Pollination happens when pollen is transported from the anther (male part) of one plant to the stigma (female part) of another plant. This process fertilizes the plant and results in the production of fruits and seeds. Pollinators act as a vector transporting pollen grains from plant to plant. When pollinators visit plants their bodies pick up pollen grains that are then deposited on the next plant, transferring genetic material vital for plant reproduction.
Montana’s Native Pollinators:
In Montana, insect pollinators include native bees, honey bees, beetles, flies, moths, and butterflies. Vertebrate pollinators include birds, bats, and small mammals. Almost 40 agricultural crops grown in Montana rely on pollination by these species. Montana is also one of the top honey producing states in the nation, which wouldn’t be possible without our hard-working pollinators.
Threats to Montana’s Pollinators:
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 185 pollinator species are considered threatened or extinct across the world. Currently in the United States 4 bat, 22 bird, 8 bee, and 38 other insect pollinator species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Pollinators). The largest threats to native pollinators include:
- Habitat loss and fragmentation
- Excessive or improper use of pesticides and insecticides
- Disease and parasites
- Competition from invasive species
Due to these threats, pollinator populations world-wide are decreasing in both abundance and range. If further declines are not prevented or reversed, both wild habitats and croplands could be detrimentally affected. Continued declines could likely have severe economic and ecological consequences.
What You Can Do:
Take action to support pollinators on your property by implementing these three steps:
- Recognize the pollinators and pollinator habitat already on your property.
- Avoid causing undue harm to your pollinators and pollinator habitat.
- Provide additional, good-quality habitat.
Your property is likely already home to some pollinators. It’s important to maintain these populations. Step back and look around. Are there patches of flower plants? Do you have areas of undisturbed soil? Do you have a wide variety of native plants on your property? If so, then you are already on your way to supporting native pollinators.
Next, prevent damaging the pollinator habitat you already have by not over watering. Many pollinator species nest in the ground and can be flooded by excessive watering. Try using drip irrigation systems or misters and reduce the duration of watering if soil becomes saturated. Also carefully consider your use of pesticides and insecticides. Read the labels carefully to avoid excessive amounts and don’t apply near patches of flowering plants.
Finally, improve your pollinator habitat by planting native species. While non-native flowering species will attract pollinators, many of Montana’s pollinator species rely on native plants for nesting habitat. Check with a local nursery to determine which native plants will suit your needs and are pollinator-friendly. Or, check out the additional Landowner Assistance section for pollinator planting guides and lists of plants for pollinators.
Want to help conserve pollinators but need some help? If you are interested in implementing a project to benefit pollinators, there are many resources available to you. Below are a few financial assistance programs and list of instructional planting guides to ensure your project succeeds. Or, contact the Flathead Conservation District at (406) 752-4220 for specific questions.
Cost-Share Program – A program through the Flatehad Conservation District that can help cover the cost of conservation projects for landowners.
Montana Conservation – A statewide website designed to help you navigate the complexities of federal and state conservation programs and determine which natural resource conservation program is right for you. This site allows you to search by keyword, filter based on target resource, or view programs from all the different organizations and agencies.
- NRCS – Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mtns (2015)
- NRCS – Habitat Development for Pollinator Insects in Montana (2016)
- NRCS – Montana Native Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Plantings (2012)
- NRCS – Plants for Pollinators in the Intermountain West (2011)
- Pollinator Partnership – Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional Guide
- USFS – Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants
- Center for Native Plants , Whitefish, MT
- Hooper’s Garden Center, Kalispell, MT
- Blackfoot Native Plants Nursery, Potomac, MT
- Great Bear Restoration, Hamilton, MT
- Native Ideals Seed Company, Arlee, MT
- Southwest Montana Native Landscapes LLC, Glen, MT
- Westscape Wholesale Nursery, Bozeman, MT
*Don’t see your retail location listed but you have native, pollinator-friendly plants or seeds? Contact us at (406) 752-4220 to be added to our list.*
Check out the sections below for publications and additional information from our partners.
- Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Middle Rocky Mountain Steppe, Coniferous Forest, Alpine Meadow Province
- MT Natural Resource Conservation Service: Pollinators
- NRCS Wildlife Habitat Management Institute: Native Pollinators
- Montana Native Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Plantings highlights the importance of establishing nectar and pollen sources, shelter and breeding environments for pollinators and other beneficial insects
- Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains provides landowners an option to reduce and conserve water, reduce air pollution, and decreased use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Waterfront Landscapes is a quick guide on planning your landscape along a body of water. It includes a short list of plants suitable for this habitat.
- Creating Native Landscapes in the Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountains provides excellent info on using native plants to create an environmental friendly landscape while reducing your water and maintenance requirements using Xeriscaping.
- Noxious Weed Management Tips provides a contact list of professionals you can contact for help with weed management, tips on how to launder clothes contaminated with herbicide, instructions on how to calibrate a boom and bloomless sprayer, tips on how to read an herbicide label and photos of Flathead County noxious weeds.