Whether on farmland or sandy beaches, pollinators, like bees and butterflies, play a vital role in growing the flowers and plants we enjoy and the produce that we eat. And with declining pollinator populations around the world, it is more important than ever for us to protect and restore their habitats.
Recognizing this fact, earlier this year, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in partnership with The Living City Foundation and Environmental Defence’s Blue Flag program organized a Pollinator Habitat Restoration project at Blue Flag certified Cherry Beach in Toronto.
As part of the environmental education component of the Blue Flag certification, the construction of this pollinator habitat helped to raise awareness about the important role pollinators play in our ecosystems. A variety of wildflowers and grasses were planted on different slopes to attract insects of all kinds. Low grasses and shrubs were planted at the base of the pollinator garden for species that thrive in wetter environments. Native flowers, tall grass, and even trees were planted at higher levels of the garden for pollinators that fly higher and need less water.
There are about 200,000 species of animals that act as pollinators. In Canada alone, over $1.2 billion worth of horticultural produce depends upon insects for pollination! Without pollination, apples, asparagus, almonds, berries, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflowers, and many other fruits, vegetables, and nuts, would disappear from our store shelves.
Many pollinator populations, including the honey bee and monarch butterfly, are drastically declining due to the use of genetically modified crops, the destruction of habitat, and the overuse of chemicals and pesticides. As the numbers continue to fall, the need for us to do something about it rises.
You can help by creating your own pollinator garden in your backyard or even on your balcony. It’s easy! Here are some tips to help get you started:
- Use native plants that provide nectar and act as host plants for butterflies, bees and other insects.
- Attract a range of pollinators by planting flowers of different shapes and sizes.
- Select plants that bloom at different times from spring to fall to ensure that pollinators have adequate food and shelter throughout the year.
- Eliminate or reduce the use of chemical pesticides. Opt for a natural version instead!
- Make a shallow water bath close to the ground for pollinators to hydrate themselves.