Series of images showing pollinators on flowers and lawns converted to pollinator habitat

BWSR recently received state funding to develop a new Lawns to Legumes grant program focused on planting residential lawns with native vegetation and pollinator friendly forbs and legumes to protect a diversity of pollinators. 

The funding appropriation is through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). BWSR will be working with the ENRTF as well as other stakeholders and partners to develop program criteria this summer.  Current plans are to have funding be distributed to local conservation partners later in 2019 so they can distribute funding to individual landowners, leading to the implementation of projects in the spring and summer of 2020. Funding will be targeted in priority areas for benefitting the Rusty patch bumble bee and other at-risk species. Please continue checking this webpage for additional updates about the program.

Why Pollinator Beneficial Plantings Are Important:

Bumblebee on hedge nettle
  • Many insects such as bees, butterflies, and moths that support our food and ecological systems are at serious risk.
  • Pollinator beneficial lawns and plantings also provide water quality, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem benefits.
  • The planning, installation and management of projects provides green industry jobs.
  • Improved soil health.

Key Ways to Incorporate Pollinator Habitat into Yards

  • Remove existing lawn (using sod cutters, etc.) and seed a pollinator lawn seed mix that typically include no-mow fescues and flowers.
  • Inter-seed flowers into existing lawn and increase mowing height, and decrease mowing frequency (see Bee Lab guidance)
  • Expand garden beds and plant pollinator beneficial flowers (native species are encouraged).
  • Convert large areas to a prairie vegetation.
  • Plant your rain-garden with pollinator-beneficial plants.
  • Incorporate Flowering shrubs and trees in the landscape such as chokeberry, dogwood, ninebark, hawthorn, cherry, plum, apple, maple and basswood.
  • Eliminate the use of insecticides to the extent possible.

A new Urban Pollinator Habitat Guide is under development for this program. Other key resources related to this program include:

When Will This Funding be Available?

This project was recently funded by the legislature, and is still in planning stages. The goal is to distribute funds to local conservation partners later this year, who will distribute funds to landowners. Ideally this will lead to projects starting to be installed in Spring or Summer of 2020

Who Will be Eligible?

Funding will be available for homeowners and prioritized for areas in Rusty Patched Bumblebee territory and to protect other at-risk species. As the planning process continues, please check this page for updates about project eligibility. 

What is a Legume?

Legumes are flowering plants that fix nitrogen in the ground. They include White Dutch Clover, often found in Bee lawn seed mixtures as well as native plants like Wild Lupine and Purple Prairie Clover.

Catchy name aside, the purpose of this program is to improve pollinator habitat that can involve legumes, but also includes other flowering native plants. Native plants are the best quality sources of nectar and pollen for native Minnesota pollinators like our new state bee: The Rusty Patched Bumblebee as well as Monarch Butterflies.

What Insects Will Benefit?

This program is specifically designed to address the needs of the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, a federally listed endangered species. But providing habitat for one pollinator helps most other pollinators as well.

Monarch Butterflies and other bees will benefit from this habitat, as will other animals including birds, amphibians and reptiles whose populations have been declining in recent years.

Another added benefit is that pollinator plantings contribute to cleaner streams, lakes and rivers as plant root systems filter pollutants and runoff before they reach our waterways.

How Can I Help Now?

You don't have to wait to create a pollinator-friendly yard!

Here are some guides to creating habitat:

the Xerces Society: Gardens for Pollinators

UMN Bee Lab: Flowering Bee Lawns

Metro Blooms: DIY Bee Lawn

US Fish and Wildlife Service: Build a Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps



Dan Shaw
Senior Ecologist/Vegetation Specialist