Minnesota's Pollinators

Pollination happens when wind, water, or wildlife carry pollen from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of flowers. Almost 90% of the world's flowering plant species rely on animal pollinators.

Pollinators help us to enjoy well-balanced diets and healthy ecosystems. They provide nutritious fruits, vegetables, and nuts like blueberries, squash, and almonds. This food is important for wildlife, too. Black bears, for example, eat raspberries that are pollinated by bumble bees.

Pollinators also create stable environments. They pollinate plants that stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. These plants can buffer waterways, store carbon, and provide habitat for other wildlife. Plus, flowering landscapes are beautiful. Without pollinators, our environment would look very different.

Agents of Pollination...

windruby throated hummingbird bumblebee
eastern frittilary syrphid flie beetle

Wind and Water

Many plants, such as grasses and conifer trees, are pollinated by pollen transported on the wind. Some aquatic plants are pollinated by pollen that is carried on water currents.


Birds (such as this ruby-throated hummingbird seeking nectar from these Liatris aspera flowers), reptiles, and mammals can also transport pollen. Bats are important pollinators in some part of the United States, but there's no evidence that they pollinate plants in Minnesota. (Photo by Sparky Stensaas)


Honey bees were brought to North America in the 1600s. Today they are transported around the United States to pollinate crops. The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is just one non-native species. Honey bees are considered livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In contrast to the honey bee, Minnesota has approximately 400 species of native bees. Native bees are efficient pollinators because they collect pollen to feed their young. Bees also have branched hairs, which easily pick up pollen.

Please visit the DNR's grassland bee page to learn more about our work as well as the projects and resources pages.

Butterflies & Moths

There are many species of butterflies and moths in Minnesota. They drink nectar from flowers so they are not quite as efficient at pollination as bees.

The DNR's Minnesota Biological Survey is currently studying prairie skippers, butterflies, and moths.


Some flies visit flowers to drink nectar, and they transport pollen accidentally along the way. Flies are especially drawn to open, flat-topped flowers where they can easily land. They are also attracted to flowers that smell putrid (like rotting meat).


like this soldier beetle, can act as important pollinators. They are sometimes called "mess and soil" pollinators because they transfer pollen while munching through flowers and defecating. Beetles are attracted to flowers that smell spicy, sweet, fruity, or fermented. They are also attracted to flowers that have a flat top or bowl shape.

Frequently Asked Questions

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How can I support pollinators in my garden?


There's also a pollination blog and book from local photographer/landscaper Heather Holm. The Xerces Society has a website and book about attracting native pollinators. Finally, it's OK to ask the staff at your local nursery to help you find plants that are not treated with neonicotinoid pesticides. Pollinators may become sick or die if they visit plants treated with "neonics".



How can I support pollinators in my landscape restoration?


The Minnesota DNR is currently adding pollinator information to the plant lists in our Native Plant Community Field Guides. A draft booklet, Pollinator Resource Values for Upland & Wetland Prairies is available from MNDNR.



What funding is available for creating pollinator habitat?


The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources maintains a list of funding opportunities for pollinator habitat here.



Where can I learn about honey bees and bee keeping?


The University of Minnesota Bee Lab has information about honey bees and bee keeping on their website. Many other groups can help you learn more, such as the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association and The Beez Kneez



Where can I learn more about neonicotinoid pesticides?


Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are present in the leaves, pollen, and nectar of treated plants. Pollinators might become sick or die if they visit plants treated with "neonics." The Xerces Society published a report about the effects of neonics on bees. The American Bird Conservancy published a report about their effects on birds. Researchers published a paper about neonicotinoids in Canadian wetlands. Friends of the Earth released a report in 2013 that found neonicotinoid-treated plants for sale at garden centers in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is currently completing a review of neonicotinoids. The criteria and process of the review are detailed in this agency report.



What pollinator activities can I do with kids?


The Minnesota DNR offers a classroom pollination activity through Project WILD. At home, you can print coloring sheets. Also, please explore the citizen science opportunities listed below.



What opportunities are there to volunteer with the DNR or get involved with citizen science related to pollinators?


Please contact Nicole Gerjets (651-259-5444), a bee specialist with the DNR's Minnesota Biological Survey, if you would like to apply for a volunteer position. There are also many citizen science opportunities, such as:




How can I identify my photo of an insect?


Upload your photo to BugGuide.net for quick insect identifications.



How can I build a nesting block for native bees?


Joel Gardner with the University of Minnesota Bee Lab has an pamphlet about native bees and building bee nesting habitat.



What is the Minnesota DNR doing to support pollinators?


The Minnesota DNR is creating Best Management Practices and Habitat Restoration Guidelines for pollinators in response to the Minnesota Legislature’s 2013 Pollinator Habitat Bill (H.F. 976). Pollinator information will also be added to the DNR’s Native Plant Community Field Guides. Additionally, the DNR is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to create Best Management Practices for pollinators along roadsides. Finally, the Minnesota Biological Survey are studying native bees and butterflies/moths, respectively.



Further information