Our Solution

Conservation fitting into the farm and ranch plan

Simply put, The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund puts the best habitat where it makes the most sense. There is room for conservation on every farm—it’s just a matter of finding a match. Acres that are not optimal for production make great habitat opportunities. Biologists consult with each landowner to determine the best practices to establish habitat in these marginal areas. Especially in today’s commodity market, farmers need to make every acre the best it can be. The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund does that, with the potential for increasing net farm income if used properly, and creating a successful, sustainable piece of land that’s responsibly managed.  

The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund pays farmers to grow wildflowers on unproductive scraps of land and provides them with a special seed mix designed to attract bees and butterflies. The program so far has enrolled 124 landowners in North and South Dakota, with each contract averaging about 15 acres – with over 6.58 million milkweed seeds planted to date. The program has been so successful to date that there is a waiting list of farmers and landowners wanting to participate.

Why do pollinators need our support?

Statistics indicate that about 30-40 percent of America’s honey bees die each year. The bees we rely on to pollinate in agricultural systems travel to blooming crops in the spring. After they pollinate those crops, most will replenish in the Midwest. By providing good nutrition, we can ensure a bounty of honey bees and mitigate their stress, thereby developing stronger, healthier populations for the next year’s pollination cycle. In addition, the Eastern population of the monarch butterfly is in serious decline. In just the last decade, its numbers have been reduced by 90 percent. Without intervention, it is sure to be listed as endangered soon.

How can creating a better habitat help?

Nutrition is the most basic and fundamental requirement for healthy pollinators. The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund works to give honey bees and monarch butterflies access to abundant, diverse and pesticide-free floral resources to help them live longer and healthier, so that they can become more productive at the same time. Through precise development of honey bee and monarch butterfly habitat, these projects provide resources for many other pollinators and wildlife as well.

How does the program work?

The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund makes it easy for landowners to convert underutilized or underperforming acreage to useful wildlife habitat – thus supporting the world’s pollinators who need space and the right flowering plants to feed, regenerate and work their magic. It’s a science-driven solution that designs NextGen Pollinator Habitats to be planted on land that isn’t optimal for production. For just $100 an acre, we can build effective habitats for honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators.  

Landowner incentives include free seed and $50/acre. Contracts are available for three, four, five or six years. Most landowners opt for six years. Funds are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to enroll before available funding for the year is fully enrolled.


Who founded The Bee & Butterfly Fund?

The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund is a collaborative effort of founding partners Pheasants Forever, Project Apis m. and Browning’s Honey Co. Additionally, the partnership is funded by a very diverse group of supporting stakeholders with shared goals.

What is the mission of The Bee & Butterfly Fund?

Habitat loss is one of the most severe threats to honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators. While it is not the only issue affecting them, it is one that all stakeholders can agree needs focus, as access to good, clean forage is the most basic and fundamental requirement in sustaining healthy populations for pollinators. As more and more research is published about the negative effects of agricultural land use change on soil, water, wildlife, climate and pollinators, the opportunity to garner support for establishing habitat from many stakeholders continues to increase. Currently, there are other pollinator habitat efforts, but none of them are designed or suited well enough to reach the most important goals. The purpose of The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund is to support the needs of pollinators through a private conservation program that is designed to accomplish two primary goals.

The first is to replace critical forage in areas where pollinators traditionally live. Landowners enroll eligible acres, usually field edges or odd areas on the farm, through Pheasants Forever in a three- to six-year contract. Landowners are provided free seed, technical assistance, an establishment reimbursement and an annual payment, based on acres. The program’s effects are verified and monitored by research, and also by the beekeepers and landowners involved. The monitoring and research is designed to deliver the second goal, which is to demonstrate a better model for pollinator conservation through the use of more cost-effective, pollinator-preferred seed mixtures, better establishment procedures and management techniques which reduce weed competition issues, and boost foraging opportunity for bees. The habitat mixtures are designed to produce maximum value on every acre throughout the growing season by increasing the diversity and density of bloom.

What do farmers and landowners get for participating in the program?

How much is the payment that I will receive for participating in the program?

Planting incentive payments are available and vary by state. Consult the Program Guidelines for your state for more specific information. 

How many acres can I enroll in the program?

The program accepts projects that range from 1 acre to 160 acres in size.

How big is the program right now?

Currently 124 landowners from North and South Dakota have enrolled in the program, and in 2017, the program will be available to six states (adding Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri). Average project size is 15 acres for six years, and we have planted more than 6.58 million milkweed seeds to date. There is a waiting list for participants.

How do you choose the locations for habitats?

Applications are reviewed and scored by biologists. Factors influencing selection include project size, cropping history, proximity to an existing apiary and funding availability. Landowners who choose to donate incentive payments will be given prioritized consideration.

How are NextGen Habitat Projects different from others?

Each project has two practices- a honey bee mix and a native mix. We are cost effective, just $90 per acre will establish perennial habitat! Landowner incentives include free seed, $15 per acre for planting and an annual rental payment.

What pollinators do your habitats support?

For this program, enrolled landowners receive two separate seeding mixtures:

Are there any limits to what land can be included in the program?

Land that is currently in native rangeland is not eligible for enrollment in the program. Land that is currently in grass cover (non-native rangeland) will need to have the existing grass cover removed through chemical application (using both a fall and spring spraying of a non-selective herbicide) prior to enrollment in the program.

Do I need to be near an apiary (beekeeper)?

Part of the application and ranking process is the location of the proposed project to a registered honey bee apiary in the state. Visit the appropriate state website to determine the location in miles from the project site to the nearest registered apiary.

Can I still allow hunting on the land?

There are no requirements allowing the public access to lands that are enrolled into the program. All rights and decisions regarding access to the land for hunting remain with the landowner.

Can I use the land for grazing?

Enrolled acres are restricted from haying, mowing, shredding and/or grazing from April 1 to September 30 of each year of the contract. This requirement ensures that the planting benefit of the pollinator habitat is available at the most critical times of the year. Landowners are able to hay or graze the contracted acres outside of the April 1 to September 30 timeline.

What if I’ve used herbicide on the land I want to enroll in the program?

For areas that were formerly in cropland with herbicide applications on them in the preceding 40 months, the herbicide use must be reviewed by our biologists prior to enrollment. Land that has had herbicides with a residual carryover applied to it is unlikely to be successful in establishing the pollinator habitat.

How do I get the habitat seed mixes?

The pollinator habitat seeding mixtures will be provided in the program at no cost to landowners. Our biologists have designed seeding mixtures to meet specific habitat and nutritional requirements for the target species to ensure maximum wildlife benefits are being obtained. All seed orders will be delivered directly to landowners, with the fluffy seed separated from the small, slick seeds. This seed mixing combination is designed for projects that will be planted using a no-till grass drill with multiple seed boxes.

How can I find out more information or enroll in the program?

The first step in the enrollment process is to complete the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund application form. See complete Program Guidelines here. Contact us at info@beeandbutterflyfund.org to request an application.

For more information, call 1-800-407-5337.

“The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund is the bees’ buzz! The effort is integrating the very best performing habitat solutions where they are most needed, by bringing landowners and beekeepers together in a program where everyone benefits. It’s our goal to make every available acre the best it can be. It’s truly amazing just how much difference an acre can make when the habitat is engineered for maximum productivity!”

Zac Browning, Co-owner, Browning’s Honey Co., Inc.

“This project is a unique conservation effort, targeting acres in regions where conversion to soy and corn is happening very fast. By identifying places where habitat makes the most sense, the bottom line improves for the grower, the beekeeper, the monarch, upland songbirds and game birds, honey bees and native pollinators – it’s a program that can’t lose!”

Danielle Downey, Executive Director, Project Apis m.

"The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund is unique in that it has found the way to plant cost-effective pollinator habitat that establishes quickly and provides great pollinator benefits. It's the trifecta of getting great pollinator benefits onto the landscape. If we try to solve the critical problems for pollinators using the same tools and methods we have used for the last decade, we won’t be successful. The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund brings new strategies, methods and partners together to save monarch butterflies, honey bees and other pollinators, not to mention the nation’s food supply and beautiful landscapes."

Peter S. Berthelsen, Director of Habitat Partnerships, Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever