U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services

How to protect our pollinators

Simple ways you can help promote and protect our precious pollinators, our environment and our food supply
From bees to Monarch butterflies, our pollinators are in trouble. And that’s a big problem for our environment and our food supply. We rely on these pollinators for everything from almonds to strawberries to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows and more. Watch the video below to see a great way you can help them out locally by spreading milkweed or other native plants that they rely on to survive and thrive. 
Step 1: Gather milkweed or other native wildflowers

You can find these plants in a garden or on the side of the road, or you can even buy seeds at your local gardening supply store. If you’re gathering the seeds of a milkweed plant, you'll know when the pods are ready to be harvested when they break off really easily from the stalk. If the seeds are a dark brown — kind of like espresso coffee — they are ready to be used in a seed ball. If they're too green they won't work.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services
Step 2: Separate the seeds from the silk

Milkweed seeds will be covered in silk that you’ll need to remove. Put the silk and seed mixture in a container with a handful of change and shake it vigorously for about 30 seconds. As you shake it the coins will knock the seeds off so you can easily remove all the fuzzy stuff and you're left with a bunch of seeds. Now your milkweed seeds are ready to be made into milkweed seed balls.

Step 3: Make some balls of clay

You need some clay and some organic soil. Mix two parts clay to one part soil and slowly start adding water and mixing it with your hands until it reaches a consistency where it's sticky to the touch. You can test the consistency of your ball by gently squeezing it — and as long as it doesn’t fall apart during that test, you’re good to go. Then you can make some balls that are about the diameter of a quarter.

Step 4: Add the seeds

Once you have your clay/soil balls, take your finger and make a little well in the middle of each ball that reaches down into the middle. You don't want too many seeds in each ball or else the seeds won't be able to get enough nutrients, so place 4 seeds in the well you’ve created and squish it closed, roll it back into an even sphere and you’ve made your first seed ball.

Step 5: Let your seed balls harden and experience winter

Place your new seed balls in a cool, dry place to harden for 48 hours or more. You'll be able to see that they're hard because the clay is dry and will be a slightly lighter color. Put them in your freezer or leave them in a cool dry place over the winter — they need to go through a winter to be able to germinate in the spring.

Step 6: Spread them out in the environment

In the spring, once it's sunny and there's lots of moisture, take the balls and throw them out into a field or on the side of the road somewhere that gets sunlight and water. Be careful not to place your seedballs in a super soggy place as that will not be the ideal environment for them to grow. You don't have to bury them. Just let them sit on top of the ground. When it rains, the water will activate the seed and it will be able to grow.

Step 7: Watch them grow and keep up the good work

Nice work. You just made a big difference in the lives of our precious pollinators. Make a point of stopping by where you spread your seedballs to watch the milkweed — or other native wildflowers — grow. And take another step to protect our pollinators by [telling Congress to ban the use of bee-killing pesticides in wildlife refuges.

TAKE ACTION TO SAVE THE BEES

Tell Congress to ban the use of bee killing pesticides in wildlife refuges