Pollinator Habitat

Why should we care about pollinators in Northbrook?

A pollinator is anything that helps flowering plants reproduce, such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies, and small mammals. They are responsible for the pollination and reproduction of over 75% of all flowering plants (such as fruits and vegetables). Scientists warn that pollinators, especially insect pollinators, are declining rapidly in numbers over the past few decades. Habitat loss is considered a main contributing factor to this decline, so every backyard counts!

Rusty-patched Bumblebee


See 2/17/22 video presentation from Northbrook staff

In Northbrook, we share our environment with the critically endangered rusty patched bumblebee: the chemicals we use in our backyards impact the fate of this species. Beyond global climate change, scientists have cited reasons for its decline such as environmental degradation and contamination from petro-chemicals, pesticides, and inorganic fertilizers. Bumblebees can absorb toxins directly through their exoskeleton upon contact with contaminated nectar and pollen. Rusty patched bumble bees nest in the ground and may be susceptible to compounds that persist in agricultural soils, lawns and turf.

The endangered bee is present in Northbrook's natural areas and has the ability to forage for nectar within a 3-mile range of its nesting site.


Map: Red indicates areas where the rusty patched bumble bee is present. Yellow considers the maximum dispersal potential of the species from sites with recent records. Both areas are considered important for conservation actions. Source: USFWS

What can Northbrook residents do to help? 

Bumble Bee Garden Sign

To receive a free Rusty-Patched Bumblebee garden sign, your garden must: 

1) leave the leaves and vegetation for stem-nesting bees in a “no-mow” area on all or a portion of your property,

2) contain native wildflower species, such as Coneflower or Milkweed, and

3) exclude inorganic pesticides and fertilizers.

Email a picture of your bee garden to tessa.murray@northbrook.il.us to receive a sign or call 847-664-4134. 

Somme Woods as habitat refuge

A recent study from UIUC (http://ow.ly/wWy330rIkpK) on the rusty patched bumblebee finds that forest plants blooming in spring appear to be declining, and the timing of those flowers corresponds with when queen bees are out and foraging for food. Unfortunately, many forest preserves within Cook County are suffering with invasions from introduced plant species. These non-native spring blooms outcompete our native ones for space, light, and nutrients on the forest floor.
 Thankfully, Northbrook has dedicated volunteers working year-round on invasive species control and native plant revitalization. As a result, spring beauties like Eastern Shooting Star and Wild Geranium grace the forest floor for queen bees to enjoy. Northbrook would like to thank our community members involved in local conservation such as the Somme Woods Community restoration project. If you would like to get involved in this effort, email sommepreserve@gmail.com.

To learn more, see the USFWS fact sheet or read the full article from Northbrook's staff.

Monarch Butterfly


Monarch Way Station Program

YOU can help make a difference! In an effort to make the Village of Northbrook a resource-filled pit stop for our beloved pollinators on their travels, the Village encourages residents to plant milkweed, a native plant that is necessary to complete the monarch life cycle. Monarchs exclusively lay eggs on milkweed as it is the only food source that the monarch caterpillar will eat. Residential gardens that sustain Monarch’s during their annual migration are eligible to receive a “Let’s Make Northbrook a Monarch Way Station” garden sign. To be eligible, gardens must:

  1. Contain native plants.
  2. Exclude exposure to pesticides.
  3. Contain at least three (3) native milkweed plants, planted in close proximity to one another. 

Email a picture of your butterfly garden to tessa.murray@northbrook.il.us to receive a sign. For more information on building a way station, visit monarchwatch.org.


Mayors Monarch Pledge

Village President Sandy Frum first made a Village Monarch proclamation in 2015 and signed the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge in 2017. The Village continues to sustain pollinator conservation and education: see 2021 program updates at Northbrook's Monarch Pledge Community Page.

Field Museum's Monarch Community Science

To encourage participation in local conservation studies, the Village monitors a survey patch of milkweed for the Field Museum's Community Science program. This effort contributes data to help answer fundamental urban ecology questions like, “what are the characteristics of a successful urban monarch garden?” See 2021 updates on the Field Museum's Community Science program here.

Pesticides and pollinators

Pesticides are herbicides and insecticides used to control invasive plants and nuisance/disease-carrying insects. Pesticides are appropriate in some cases when used carefully but should not be misused or overused. Research has shown that pesticides contribute to the decline of important pollinators, most notably bees. Before resorting to pesticide applications in your outdoor space, please review this checklist provided by Northbrook's Environmental Quality Commission. If considering a mosquito control service for your home, please consult this fact sheet put together in collaboration with Midwest Grows Green and North Shore Mosquito Abatement District (NSMAD).

Northbrook is serviced by two public health agencies for bug-carrying diseases, both of which utilizing Integrated Pest Management to address the health concerns of diseases in our area as well as the threat of pesticides causing resistance and impacts on pollinators. On March 18, 2021 the Director of NSMAD presented the following information to the Environmental Quality Commission.