keeping our community green

OGC President's Message on Pollinators

There has been a quiet buzz bubbling through the garden community for a number of years, but the chorus is now building to a crescendo.

(Note: Links at bottom of article)

This past week, I participated in two separate horticultural events where the key note speakers were adding their voices to the choir, and I believe that every gardener should be a joining in the refrain. What is the subject of all this sonorous attention? It is the survival of pollinators.

Pollinator well-being is presently of such concern that Pollinator Health Action Plans have been developed by provincial and federal jurisdictions. Why should we be worried? To put it simply, if the number of pollinators declines, our food sources will be at risk. The statistics reveal that 70 - 80% of all flowering plants, which includes fruits and vegetables, require pollination. Although the wind facilitates some pollination, the majority is the result of action by bees, moths, flies, butterflies, beetles and hummingbirds. These creatures have been critically affected by a variety of factors. Primary among these are the increased use of pesticides, the loss of habitat and decreased availability of suitable food sources.

What can we do to help remedy this dire situation? We can provide water, shelter and food for these valuable creatures.
Water is the easily made available by using a shallow, rough edged container. Smooth edges may result in the insect slipping into the water and drowning. You can add rocks or sticks to provide a spot for the insects to land and have easier access the water.

It is good to have an idea of what type of pollinators frequent your garden so that you can provide appropriate lodgings for them. Hedgerows and shrubbery will provide shelter at the edges of open fields. A large number of the bees are ground dwellers so if you mulch your gardens to preserve water and reduce weeds; make sure to have some bare soil in a sunny dry location so the bees can burrow into the soil. Hollow stems from grasses and reeds, or blocks of wood with 5/16” holes, or specially designed houses are good for the solitary bees.

Providing food in the way of pollen and nectar is something that a gardener can easily fulfill while meeting all their own needs in the garden. What you need to consider when choosing plants is a diverse selection of appropriate plant material that results in 3 full seasons of flowering in the garden. Native species are better designed to meet the needs of the pollinators because of their accessibility to and production of pollen and nectar. There are some excellent articles and websites that provide examples of the native plant species suitable for our zone, light and soil conditions required when they bloom and which pollinators they will attract. The files also illustrate the wide variety of pollinators that could be part of our garden fauna. I will share some of my favourites on the OGC website.

I do hope that you will seriously consider the needs and living requirements of the pollinators when working in your gardens. Join the choir and sing for their survival!

Dreaming of delving in the dirt,

A Landowners Guide to Conserving Native Pollinators in Ontario
Creating a Pollinator Patch
Guide to Toronto Pollinators
Plant Selection for Pollinators in the Lake Erie Lowlands
Nectar and Pollen Plants for Native Wild Pollinators