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Native Pollinators Around Chicago

May 29th, 2023

Pollinators are an essential part of our ecosystem. Without them, we would have no flowers, fruits, vegetables or berries!

Pollinators transfer pollen from flower to flower as they visit them in search of nectar, and that process keeps local flora alive and thriving despite so much habitat loss created by cities and urbanization.

Here at AMLI, we love supporting natural pollinators, especially here in Chicago. Our River North apartments and our  apartments near River North feature rooftop gardens and pollinator paths to attract and support the birds, butterflies and bees that come to the city in search of food. 

Here are a few pollinators that keep the fruits, veggies and flowers around Chicago happy and healthy, so keep an eye out for them next time you’re out!

Pollinating bees, hummingbirds & butterflies in Chicago


A honey bee is probably the first creature that comes to mind when we think about pollinators, especially since the creation of honey is so closely tied to this insect’s pollinating abilities.

Bees pick up pollen on their legs and bodies as they buzz from flower to flower in search of nectar. The pollen gets distributed along the way and fertilizes the female parts of flowers, allowing for the creation of fruits and veggies. 

This is how pollination works across the board, but bees do it so well that we can’t help but start with them!

Here are a few of the local bee species that you’re likely to find flitting around your windowsill, neighborhood park or botanical garden. 

  • Honey bees are the only bees that actually create honey, contrary to popular belief. These bees are small and live in large colonies within bee hives where their queen resides. 
  • Bumblebees give off that characteristic “bzzzzzz” sound as they fly, as they are larger than most other bees. Fear them not, though, as they don’t have any stingers and are harmless!
  • Mason bees are named for their fascinating nests that they build out of mud within cavities, cracks or holes! 
  • Leaf cutter bees are mostly solitary and spend most of their time building nests with pieces of leaves that they cut using their front mandibles. 


Butterflies are also important pollinators, especially ones that travel far distances or migrate between different areas regularly. It takes a lot of nectar to fuel a cross-country migration, so these little guys are pretty intense when it comes to visiting as many flowers as they can. 

  • Monarch butterflies migrate hundreds of miles across the continent in search of milkweed in which to lay their eggs. The milkweed flower is toxic to most of the butterfly’s predators and, since the butterfly feeds almost exclusively from it in its early stages, will avoid eating the butterfly altogether. 
  • Viceroy butterflies look similar to monarch butterflies, but they are a little smaller and do not feast on milkweed with the same vigor as their migratory counterparts. 
  • Swallowtail butterflies are recognizable by their large, pale yellow wings edged with black, patches of royal blue and a distinct swallowtail on the hind wings.
  • Painted ladies have the same colors as a monarch, but they lack the dark veins and slim bodies of monarchs. Rather, these gentle butterflies have white dots on their wingtips and a browner coloration on their hind wings. They are also the most widespread of all the butterfly species in the world!


Apparently, flies have another purpose alongside annoying the heck out of every other living thing. Who knew? 

Certain adult flies feed on nectar and only head toward the less desirable sights and smells when they’re ready to lay eggs. Fly larvae feed on the gross stuff, but the adults eat nectar just like bees and butterflies do.

  • Flower flies look a lot like bees with their yellow bodies, black stripes and delicate wings. They are harmless since they have no sting, so if you see a flower fly buzzing around, welcome it with open arms!
  • Bee flies look like a child stuck wings on a pom-pom and called it a day. Their rotund, fluffy brown bodies flit from flower to flower in search of nectar and pollen, and their long proboscis extends far in front of it to delve into long, thin flowers. 


Hummingbirds are a treat to spot, especially in the city or dense urban areas. Though they don’t always land on flowers, their tiny beaks and faces pick up pollen as they sip on nectar from long, tube-like flowers. 

  • Ruby-throated hummingbirds are a popular migratory hummingbird that summers in the Eastern U.S and Canada and spends its winters in Central and South America, sometimes traveling straight across the Gulf of Mexico in one go! 
  • Black-chinned hummingbirds have a gray-ish body, a black head and a stunning blue necklace across its throat, making it instantly recognizable in gardens all over Chicago. 
  • Calliope hummingbirds have a shiny purple neck and an olive green back. They’re also the smallest birds native to the country, so keep an extra close eye out for them!


We may not think of moths as pollinators, but they are! They are sometimes the only pollinators for certain kinds of plants, such as flowers that open at night and flowers with pale coloration that other pollinators aren’t attracted to.

  • Luna moths are gorgeous moths that almost look more like butterflies! Their thin, delicate wings are pale green and sport a realistic “eye” on each wing, with the hindwings trailing out behind them like a tail. 
  • Hawk moths are a family of moths common all over the country and are easy to spot. They have large bodies and flutter quickly through the night on their search for sweet nectar. They come in many colors, too, such as pink, yellow, brown, gray, black, green and orange.

If you live anywhere in or near our luxury Chicago apartments, keep an eye out for these pollinators next time you’re out at one of the city’s many parks or gardens. Maybe you’ll recognize a few, and maybe you’ll get to watch them hard at work ensuring the continued survival of our local flora!

Bee happy!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/WikiImages

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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