This spring, pitch in to help pollinators

Spring is here and that means the sounds of spring – the buzzing and chirping of Illinois pollinators – aren’t far behind.

Pollinators, which include everything from butterflies and bees to hummingbirds and moths, are responsible for approximately one in three bites of food that we eat. More than that, pollinators help plants that give us fibers for clothing, edible oils, medicines and other products necessary for our survival. In fact, without these plants and the food, shelter, oxygen, and ecosystem they provide, many land-based organisms – including humans – would not exist.

That’s why news that pollinator populations are declining worldwide is so concerning, and it’s why state agencies like the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are working to put plans in place to support pollinators and their habitat.

The Illinois Monarch Project, which IDNR is leading with help from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, is a coordinated approach to protecting one of our most important pollinators, monarch butterflies. By bringing together state agencies, agricultural, urban and rights-of-way stakeholders and other state organizations, the Illinois Monarch Project is working to protect and increase the number of monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Illinois.

Using a multi-sector approach, organizations and agencies involved in the working group are on the verge of announcing a statewide plan aimed at protecting monarchs, increasing pollinator habitat and keeping the iconic butterflies off the endangered species list.

As director of the IDNR, I’m excited about the plan and the work completed so far. What’s more, I’m eager to lead our agency in what it does best: Protect our natural resources.

While state agencies are happy to help lead the charge, everyone can and must do their part in protecting Illinois’ pollinators. If you’re unsure how, incorporating native plants and pollinator habitat into your spring gardening and landscaping work is a great way to chip in, and IDNR can help with that, too.

The only state nursery, Mason State Tree Nursery produces hand-picked, hand-planted and hand-cleaned plants and shrubs native to Illinois. Even better, the nursery has a history “rooted” in conservation. Working with IDNR and consumers to provide bareroot tree seedlings, potted plants and pollinator seed mix, the nursery provides materials specially selected with Illinois soils and pollinators in mind.

Bareroot tree seedlings offered at Mason State Tree Nursery come in a variety of species while potted plants grown at the nursery provide beautiful blooms which are easy to incorporate into established landscaping as well as functional habitat for pollinators.

If you’re interested in a more natural look, Mason State Tree Nursery’s pollinator seed mix may be more your speed. Utilizing hand-picked seed from the best native Illinois plants, each seed packet is carefully produced, neonicotinoid free and promotes active pollinator populations. A full list of offerings at Mason State Tree Nursery can be found at

Whether it’s pitching in to develop a statewide plan or planting a small bed of Illinois’ native plants in your backyard, every little bit helps when it comes to protecting and growing Illinois’ pollinator population.

To learn more about pollinators and what you can do in the fight to protect them, visit