Pacific Northwest Native Pollinators: Native Northwest Bees And Butterflies

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Pollinators are a crucial part of the ecosystem and you canencourage their presence by growing plants they like. To learn about somepollinators native to the northwestern region of the U.S., read on.

Pacific Northwest Native Pollinators

Native northwest beesare champion pollinators, buzzing as they move pollen from plant to plant inearly spring to late fall, ensuring the continued growth of a wide range offlowering plants. Butterfliesaren’t as effective as bees, but they still have an important role to play andthey are especially drawn to plants with big, colorful blooms.


The obscure bumblebee is native to the West Coast, fromnorthern Washington to southern California. Common plant hosts include:

  • Lupine
  • Sweet Peas
  • Thistles
  • Clovers
  • Rhododendrons
  • Willows
  • Lilac

Sitka bumblebees are common in the coastal areas of thewestern United States, from Alaska to California. They like to forage on:

  • Heather
  • Lupine
  • Roses
  • Rhododendrons
  • Asters
  • Daisies
  • Sunflowers

Van Dyke bumblebees have also been spotted in westernMontana and Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.

Yellow head bumblebees are common to Canada and the westernUnited States, including Alaska. Also known as yellow-fronted bumble bees, thisbee forages on geranium,penstemon,clover, and vetch.

The fuzzy-horned bumblebee is found in the western statesand western Canada. It is also known as mixed bumblebee, orange-beltedbumblebee, and tricolored bumblebee. Favored plants include:

  • Lilacs
  • Penstemon
  • Coyote Mint
  • Rhododendron
  • Common Groundsel

Two-form bumblebees are at home in the mountainous areas ofthe western United States. This bee forages on:

  • Aster
  • Lupine
  • Sweet Clover
  • Ragwort
  • Groundsel
  • Rabbitbrush

Black-tailed bumblebee, also known as orange-rumpedbumblebee, is native to the western United States and Canada, in an areaextending from British Columbia to California and as far east as Idaho. Black-tailedbumblebees favor:

  • Wild Lilacs
  • Manzanita
  • Penstemon
  • Rhododendrons
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Sage
  • Clover
  • Lupines
  • Willow


The Oregon swallowtail butterfly is native to Washington,Oregon, southern British Columbia, parts of Idaho, and western Montana. Oregonswallowtail, easily recognized with its bright yellow wings marked with black,was named Oregon’s state insect in 1979.

Ruddy Copper is commonly seen in the western mountains.Females lay their eggs on plants in the buckwheat family, primarily docksand sorrels.

Rosner’s Hairstreak is commonly found in British Columbiaand Washington, where the butterfly feeds on westernred cedar.

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Native Northwest Pollinators – Learn About Pollinators In Northwest States - garden

"Our future flies with pollinators", 2020 Pollinator Poster, Credit: Fiorella Ikeue

When you're outside, you may not notice hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies carrying pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar. But, these hard-working animals help pollinate more than 75% of the world's flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops. Without pollinators, wildlife would have fewer nutritious berries and seeds to eat, and we would miss out on many fruits, vegetables, and nuts, like blueberries, squash, and almonds. not to mention chocolate and coffee. all of which depend on pollinators.

Learn more about pollinators by viewing fun and educational materials on pollinators, including:

  • Activity guide (Go! Wild) - learn about pollinators at Rocky Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, then match plants to pollinators and enjoy other games. Can you guess which animals pollinate plants in your yard?

  • Podcasts - listen to broadcasts about native bees, endangered pollinators, pollinator gardens and backyard habitat, and a view a video clip from Green Springs Garden. Are you providing good habitat for pollinators in your yard?

  • Webcasts ( Pollinator Live and Monarch Live) - take a trip on these websites to "see" monarch habitat across North America and learn about the great migration of monarchs, or learn how bees and other pollinators benefit people and how to attract them to your schoolyard.

  • USFWS monarch butterfly website - learn about its lifecycle and migration, and how you can help save this iconic species.

  • The Nature's Partner's Curriculum - fun activities for clubs, schools, and families to learn about pollinators. Children may need some help from adults with many of these activities.

Download a variety of resources about pollinators, pollinator week, and what you can do to help pollinators at:

Note: The celebration of Pollinator Week started in 2007, when the U.S. Senate designated Pollinator Week in Resolution 580.

How You Can Help

Pollinators need your help! There is increasing evidence that many pollinators are in decline. However, there are some simple things you can do at home to encourage pollinator diversity and abundance.


Pollinators, such as most bees and some birds, bats, and other insects, play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables.

Examples of crops that are pollinated include apples, squash, and almonds. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife. Some of the seeds that are not eaten will eventually produce new plants, helping to maintain the plant population.

In the United States pollination by honey bees directly or indirectly (e.g., pollination required to produce seeds for the crop) contributed to over $19 billion of crops in 2010. Pollination by other insect pollinators contributed to nearly $10 billion of crops in 2010.

A recent study of the status of pollinators in North America by the National Academy of Sciences found that populations of honey bees (which are not native to North America) and some wild pollinators are declining. Declines in wild pollinators may be a result of habitat loss and degradation, while declines in managed bees is linked to disease (introduced parasites and pathogens).

Pollination results when the pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma) and fertilizes it, resulting in the production of fruits and seeds. Some flowers rely on the wind to move pollen, while other rely on animals to move pollen.

Animals visit flowers in search of food and sometimes even mates, shelter and nest-building materials. Some animals, such as many bees, intentionally collect pollen, while others, such as many butterflies and birds, move pollen incidentally because the pollen sticks on their body while they are collecting nectar from the flowers. All of these animals are considered pollinators.

Featured Pollinator

Calliope Hummingbird
(photo: Alan Schmierer, CC0 1.0)

Upcoming Monarch Webinars - cosponsored with Monarch Joint Venture

A presentation on the Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle and Conservation, is now available.

Photo by Mark Musselman/National Audubon Society.

California poppies are iconic, bright flowers that are native to the western United States and bloom during the springtime. These drought resistant flowers need full sun and well drained soil, as they can suffer from mold, mildew, and stem rot if left in an area that is too wet or moist. California poppies are just one type of poppy, as there are numerous varieties. Other poppies include alpine, arctic, Flanders, and Iceland.

Clover plants are invaluable to honeybees, to the point where there’s an entire type of honey that’s made from bees that feed primarily on clover plant nectar. Clovers, as a whole, are a part of the pea family and in addition to helping honeybees, can be used to control soil erosion on hills and riverbanks and used as animal fodder.

Clover can also help fix poor soil by converting nitrogen into fertilizer and is drought resistant! Even during the hottest, driest parts of the year, clover will keep its green color. Consider adding clover to your grassy lawn, as it’ll help the bees and the soil!

What is Pollination?

Pollination is the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma. Read more about pollination…

Why is Pollination Important?

Pollination is important to virtually all of the world's seed plants, terrestrial ecosystems, and the human race. Read more about it…

Plant Pollination Strategies

Flowering plants and their pollinator partners exhibit a variety of floral strategies and pollinator adaptations. Read more about plant pollination strategies…

Animal Pollination

Animal pollinators play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. Read more about animal pollination…

Pollinator Friendly Practices

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) compiled guidelines. Read more about pollinator friendly practices…

Gardening for Pollinators

Create a pollinator-friendly landscape around your home or workplace. Read more about gardening for pollinators…

Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices

Conservation and management of pollinators and pollinator habitat on federal lands. Read more about pollinator-friendly BMPs…

The Monarch Butterfly in North America

One of the most recognized, studied, and loved of all of North America’s insects. Read more about the monarch butterfly…

List of Pollinators

Over 150,000 invertebrates and more than a thousand mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians take on the job of pollinating plants. Below are just a few of the many examples of each type:


Butterflies are in our top 5 best pollinators list

  • Sunbirds
  • Honeycreepers
  • Insects

    • Bees, including Mason Bees, Bumblebees, Honey Bees, etc
    • Butterflies
    • Moths
    • Wasps
    • Mosquitoes
    • Ants


    By the way, have you listened to our podcast yet? Check it out!

    Use this app to learn how a variety of wild and managed bees and their pollination activities are affected by pesticide application. Includes guidelines for how beekeepers, growers, and pesticide applicators can work together to prevent bee poisoning.

    Living on The Land: Providing Habitat for Native Pollinators

    This publication is part of the Living on the Land series. It provides concise information on how to attract and support native pollinators by creating and maintaining the right habitat, including features like nesting sites, .

    Rachel Suits, Brian Tuck | Jan 2017 | OSU Extension Catalog

    Resources for building bee pollinator habitat in managed forests.

    Postcards showing where native bees nest in managed forests can be obtained from the Oregon Bee Project (

    Brad Withrow-Robinson, Lauren Grand, Max Bennett, Christine Buhl | Mar 2020 | Article

    Pollinator Steward Program

    Do you want to help pollinators on your farm, managed forest, rangeland, golf-course or community garden? Are you looking for practical training on how to build, maintain and establish pollinator habitat?

    Watch the video: Habitat Restoration Fundamentals

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