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Pollinators in the District

Pollinators in the District
- Pollinator Festival: Saturday, June 25th
Learn how you can help pollinators in the District with this helpful Pollinator Protection Week toolkit.

What is a Pollinator?monarche flower.jpg

A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants. Some plants are self-pollinating, while others may be fertilized by pollen carried by wind or water. Still, other flowers are pollinated by insects and animals - such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies and small mammals, including bats.Insects and other animals such as bats, beetles, and flies visit flowers in search of food, shelter, nest-building materials, and sometimes even mates. Some pollinators, including many bee species, intentionally collect pollen. Others, such as many butterflies, birds and bats move pollen accidentally. Pollen sticks on their bodies while they are drinking or feeding on nectar in the flower blooms and is transported unknowingly from flower to flower resulting in pollination. Learn more >>

Why is it so important to protect pollinators?

Pollinators are struggling. Beekeepers continue to lose honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture. Monarch butterflies, too, are in jeopardy.

On June 20, 2014 President Obama issued the Presidential Memorandum, “Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators.” which required the District to create pollinator protection plans (MP3s) to specifically address issues facing pollinator locally.

For the District, this required a unique plan given that the District is an urban environment that is relatively small in area and has no commercial agriculture or large-scale beekeeping. Despite this, the District is home to an active beekeeping community with several hundred hives and is habitat for numerous native bee species. Learn more>>

Pollinator Protection in the District

Beekeepers in the District are in a unique situation in that they are never far from another beekeeper’s apiary. With hundreds of apiaries across the District the potential for the spread of pests and disease to another colony is very real. Pesticide use has been identified as a one potential contributing factor to colony declines along with other potential factors such as new and reemerging pathogens, habitat loss, pests,bee management practices, and nutritional stress.

Because of the proximity of houses in the District, communication is vital between beekeepers and pesticide applicators. Pesticide applicators can be a professional company for hire or a neighbor who bought something for pest control at the local garden center. Letting them know that bees are present can help them determine when to treat and what to treat with.

Consistent with the mission of DOEE to protect public health and the environment DOEE seeks to promote and enhance pollinator protection consistent with the Agency’s mission and in particular to ensure that pollinators are not subject to unreasonable adverse effects from exposure to pesticides.

Managed Pollinator Protection Plan

The District has created a pollinator protection plan that not only focuses on the protection of managed pollinators, but also on the protection of all pollinators in the District. The goal of this plan is to engage non-profit organizations, government agencies, businesses, pesticide applicators, beekeepers, educational institutions, and the general public in the promotion and protection of pollinators by helping people understand pollinators’ importance and how there can be a home for them in our urban environment. While these are suggestions and not regulations the District sincerely hopes that people choose to follow them to make the District a better place for pollinators. See the Districts Pollinator Protection Plan.

How Can You Help?

Plant Native Pollinator Plants:

Plants that are native to our region offer a lot of benefits! These plants attract pollinators necessary for growing vegetable gardens and fruit trees; they often thrive without pesticides, require little water, and improve habitat for wildlife; and they reduce stormwater runoff while improve air quality and biodiversity .

What are recommended pollinator plants for DC?
- View a list of native pollinator flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Are there pollinator plants I should avoid or remove?
Yes. Garden centers and catalogs sell many common invasive plants that are advertised as pollinator plants. While they may attract pollinators, invasives can spread rapidly and push out native plants that local wildlife (like birds) rely on for food and shelter. Avoid planting invasives and consider removing them if they are already in your garden. View a list of invasive pollinator plants.

How do I care for pollinator plants?

An established garden with native plants requires very little maintenance.

  • During the first season, apply a thin layer of mulch to suppress weeds and help young plants retain moisture. Repeated mulching is not necessary, but it can be beneficial to let fallen leaves decompose in garden areas.
  • Do not use pesticides or fertilizer. Native plants are adapted to thrive in the District’s climate and soils.
  • Water new plantings every other day and then once a week as they become established. Plants that have been growing for more than a year will only need to be watered if they have not had rain for two weeks.
  • You can weed undesirable plants from native plant gardens, but be careful not to pull up new native plants. Many native wildflowers can seed prolifically. Dig up young plants and share them with friends, family, and neighbors, or replant them elsewhere in your own yard.
  • Leave dead flowerheads in your garden over the winter. Many pollinators lay eggs on the stems and leaves of native plants. Leave them until spring and then keep the cuttings in the garden or nearby to encourage more pollinators.

Use pesticides responsibly:

When purchasing pesticide to use at home first look for an EPA registration number on the pesticide's container. This number tells you that EPA has examined the safety testing. Secondly, look for a list of the active ingredients on the label. Any product registered with EPA must state the active ingredients on the label. Finally, trust your instincts. Shop for pesticides only in stores you know and trust. Don’t buy products that are packed or wrapped suspiciously. Learn more>>


  • Share your photos - Email DOEE photos of your pollinator plants. We may post them in our social media.
  • Collect data on local pollinators - Join UDC and the Smithsonian Institute and collect data on pollinators in community gardens.
  • Support local honey makers - Ask among your acquaintances whether they know any DC beekeepers, and request some directly from a person.
  • RiverSmart Programs - District residents can get incentives and rebates to remove turf (grass) and paved areas and replace them with native plants; install green roofs; and plant shade trees. Learn more about RiverSmart programs.
  • Find native plants - View a list of vendors that carry pollinator plants and native species. Or email [email protected] to have your business added to the list.
  • Free gardening classes - Find out about the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Urban Garden Programs.
  • Rooting DC - A free annual event and online resource  where local urban gardeners share information and learn from one another.
  • District of Columbia Pollinator Protection Plan - In June 2014, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum outlining the importance of pollinators and the need to protect them, which led to the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. In response, DOEE has created a comprehensive Pollinator Protection Plan (attached below) for the District that will identify protection methods and address pesticide use.


Contact Mary Begin  |  [email protected]

More Information on Pollinator Planting and Backyard Habitat