[Article written by Brittany Cooke]
In Ontario, we are fortunate to have many species which assist in the ecosystem service of pollination. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and bats are a few you might find hidden in your garden. Sadly, pollinators have been in decline for several years. Habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change are among the main reasons for decline. Nearly 7 of our 14 Southern Ontario bee species are under threat and 2 are on the Endangered Species List of Canada.
Now you might be wondering, why is this an issue? I would like to focus on a couple main points to answer this question. Bees are a keystone species within their environment. This essentially means that they have a strong influence on the ecosystem due to their natural trait of pollination. If bees decline, every other species will inherently suffer. The other focus is human food security. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 bites of food we take are directly linked to the pollination process. This includes everything from pumpkins and blueberries, to coffee and chocolate. You read that correctly, no more Tim Hortons if the bees were to leave. Fortunately there are many ways we can assist with improving the health of our small friends.
The Pollinator Pathways Project is a local initiative started in London. The project is focused on improving the health of pollinators and educating the community on environmental conservation. I'm fortunate to be a member of this dedicated group, where we work hard within our community to make a positive environmental impact. The main focus of our initiative is the creation of pollinator gardens. These are gardens specially made for pollinators to call home, and they are linked across urban areas to ease travelling. With the pressures of native habitat loss, creating designated areas for pollinators are critical in city survival. Pollinator gardens can be made in yards, boulevards, and allocated public spaces (schools, parks, business areas). They can be tended to by an individual, business, or an entire community. In London we have found a great amount of interest and consequently success in establishing gardens throughout the city.
Here are some guidelines to create your own pollinator garden:
· use at least a 1m × 1m plot
· choose native plant species (we emphasize the use of native plants)
· select flowering plants of different colour, size, and shape to accommodate all pollinator species needs
· find plants which bloom at different times to provide home and an ample food source for the entire growing season
· provide shallow water sources in your garden as these busy little workers do get thirsty (note: please do not leave out sugar water regularly, I will touch upon the negative health implications another time)
Our project aims to empower communities so that people can self organize and enlarge the pathways, and we are always happy to assist with the preparation! Before you head outside, I do urge everyone to become educated. Try to become familiar with local species and the threats facing them, understand how humans are influencing not only pollinator habitat but the environment at large, and ask questions whenever necessary.