- via the David Suzuki Foundation
Residents of Toronto and Richmond, B.C., recently celebrated official designation of neighbourhood
What happened next is inspiring. Rangers in each city connected with local gardening and horticulture groups, businesses, municipal councillors and parks staff, teachers and daycares. They attended community events and hatched plans to establish new butterfly gardens in parks, schools and yards. Once they began seeding these ideas, it took
In May and June, activities ranged from creating butterfly-themed costumes and a bike-trailer garden that won second prize in a Victoria parade to adopting city parks in Richmond. In Markham and Toronto, Rangers built on a project started through the Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, installing a dozen wildflower-filled canoes in parks, schools and daycares. In Toronto’s west end, a pair of Rangers led the
In late June, Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood and Richmond, B.C., surpassed the target of a dozen Ranger-led plantings, earning kudos from the Foundation for creating Canada’s first Butterflyways
Parading around as Rangers and planting wildflowers can be a fun way to engage communities and celebrate nature, but the project’s conservation potential is equally intriguing.
Reproduction for about 90 percent of flowering plant species depends on pollinators, from bees and butterflies to hummingbirds and bats. We have pollinators to thank for one of every three bites of food we eat. Sadly, threats like development, pesticides and climate change are dramatically reducing pollinator diversity and numbers. A 2016 UN report found 40 percent of all insect pollinators worldwide are under threat. More than 50 butterfly and moth species and a quarter of all bumblebee species in North America are threatened, and six species of native bees await protection under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
Although Canada’s more than 300 butterfly species aren’t as diligent pollinators as other species, they play other essential ecological roles, like becoming bird food. The plight of perhaps the most iconic butterfly in North America, the monarch, is well documented. Its numbers have dropped by more than 90 percent over the past two decades.
Dwindling bee and butterfly numbers should be a compelling enough reason for action, but the story of Canada’s pollinators is complicated by the European honeybee. It’s an introduced species, managed like livestock. They’re good pollinators, but many of Canada’s native bees are more effective—yet they fly largely under the radar.
A recent poll revealed about two-thirds of Canadians couldn’t identify a single native bee, even though Canada has more than 800 species, dozens of which are found in most backyards—including carpenter, mining, sweat and mason bees. They don’t produce honey or live in hives and are unlikely to sting humans, but they’re essential pollinators.
We can help these beneficial critters by providing habitat throughout the places we live, work and play. Like the
In the meantime, join me in celebrating the efforts of the Rangers, and the start of what I hope will be an inspiring national project to bring butterflies and bees to neighbourhoods throughout the country.
———Science Matters is a weekly column on issues related to science and the environment from David Suzuki, written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior strategist