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What’s the Buzz on Pollinator Gardens?

Some of you may laugh at this but I think about my morning cup of coffee before I go to sleep at night. Now, this may speak to odd daydreaming tendencies of mine but I don’t think I’m alone. Most of us love a good cup of coffee, a silky piece of chocolate, or a handful of nuts when we’re hungry and often take for granted how it comes to our table. To keep our favourite foods coming, we need pollinators, baby!

Over 75% of all flowering plants and nearly 75% of crops are pollinated by animals. [1] Pollination results in the production of seeds and we need solid seed production to keep our food supply strong. But it’s not just bees that move pollen around from one flowering plant to the next, it’s also butterflies, beetles, flies, bats, hummingbirds, and so many more.

Populations of pollinator insects have been declining all over the world due to agricultural activity, exposure to pollutants, destruction of undisturbed vegetation, and climate change. Studies have shown that one major contributing factor to pollinator decline is the shortage of floral food sources during the summer season. In agricultural areas, large acreages of single crops and removal of undisturbed vegetation have sharply reduced forage availability, while established landscaping in urban areas have often created habitats void of food for pollinators.[2]

Cue the Food Eco District (FED)! To combat those urban landscapes void of food for our pollinators, FED assembled a robust team to lead a workshop on how to create at-home pollinator gardens, all while installing an urban pollinator garden in the downtown library courtyard here in Victoria. In addition to planting over 100 plants and 2 mason bee barns, attendees learned about preferred habitats, species of pollinators, species of native plants that pollinators are attracted to, as well as tips and tricks to get people started.

The workshop was led by Matthew Kemshaw from The LifeCycles Project and Vancouver Island University student, Kirby Delaney who is currently completing her master’s thesis on converting under-utilized urban spaces into pollinator-friendly zones. Delaney also led the development of the garden plans, which include native species, such as:

- Broadleaf Stonecrop

- Woolly Sunflower (planting to come!)

- Slimleaf Onion

- Sea Blush

- Fireweed

- Sea Thrift

- Western Buttercup

- Great Camas

If you couldn’t make the workshop but would like to support a healthy pollinator population in your garden, follow these tips:

  • Choose a few flowers that bloom throughout the summer seasons, starting in spring all the way to the end of fall. Try to plant a variety so there is an overlap of blooms and a diversity of plants for pollinators to forage. Check out the Compost Education Centre’s suggestions.

  • Use native flowers wherever possible, as native insects have evolved with native plants, and some species depend on them.

  • Keep a part of your yard untouched. Don't dig it up, don't cut the grass, let the woody, pithy stems of plants remain in place over the winter. Let it get messy! Many species of bees are ground-nesting or wood nesting, so this provides a safe space for them to live over winter and lay their eggs.

  • Don't use pesticides or herbicides.

[1] U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

[2] Ministry of Agriculture, Government of British Columbia, Apiculture

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