Gardens to help pollinators

Pollinator ‘victory gardens’

Urban dwellers can help compensate for habitat loss by providing pollinators, and other insects and wildlife, with chemical-free gardens using native plants. If many people create pollinator gardens, they will add up to significant areas of habitat and connect patches of existing habitat. Read “More urban gardens encouraged to help save bees” at GlobalNews, and “Urban Refuge: How Cities Can Help Rebuild Declining Bee Populations” at the YaleEnvironment360 web site for more information.

With wartime ‘victory gardens’, many Canadians grew their own food so crops could be diverted to feed our troops and struggling allies. So many people participated that their gardens had a significant impact. Now, pollinator victory gardens can have similar impact. You can learn about this movement in EcoBeneficial’s The Pollinator Victory Garden video, and in the book Victory Garden for Bees by Lori Weidenhammer (available at the Ottawa Public Library). I saw this idea in practice on a 2018 summer-time vacation in Toronto. In the neighbourhood where we stayed, many home-owners had planted their postage-stamp-sized front yards with native plants. Side-by-side, the yards equaled a street-long habitat where we saw many bumblebees and Monarchs.

This isn’t a perfect solution. A few recent studies have shown that cities cause some unexpected issues for native bees. Mitigating the Effects of Heat on Urban Pollinators investigates the ‘urban heat island’ effect on bees. In my own garden, I observe few bumblebees on extremely hot days. The Impact of urbanization on wild bees underestimated describes that there are more male ground-nesting bees than females in cities. It takes more pollen, and higher protein pollen, to rear female bees, so perhaps planting more native flowers with high-quality resources will help correct that imbalance. Ideally, it would be best to preserve and restore wilderness for native species. While urban pollinator gardens won’t solve the problem of declining insect populations, whatever we can do to help is better than nothing.

You can do it too!

With my pollinator garden, I really feel like I am making a difference. It may be a small difference, but it is a tangible one. I can see right in front of me that I’m now providing food and shelter for hundreds of bees and butterflies, and dozens of birds. I would never have imagined that my new pollinator garden would be so full of life.

If more people, like you, turn some unused lawn into a pollinator garden, the impact of these gardens will add up. Plant it and they will come; it really is that simple. My garden is living proof. Go ahead, you can do it too!