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Busy Butterflies and Buzzing Bees: A Local Perspective

You may be aware of the Suzuki Foundation’s “Butterflyways Project.” Founded nationally in 2017 in five Canadian cities, its goal is to train Rangers who organize teams to incorporate native plants into urban yards, school grounds, parks and streets to support pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In the five years since its founding, teams have planted more than 85,000 wildflowers in more than 6,000 pollinator patches. Seventy-five community and neighborhood gardens have been established as official Butterflyways, offering food and shelter to wild pollinators and earning the program the Nature Inspiration Award in 2020 from the Museum of Nature.

Insects make up 2/3 of all life on Earth. It is estimated that wild insects provide ecological services worth $57 billion annually. Over 3/4 of wild flowering plants and 1/3 of the food we eat depend on insect pollination.

A survey of dead insects on windshields graphically demonstrates the declining number of insects worldwide, as pointed out on a recent episode of CBC’s “The Current,” by Oliver Milman, a British climate writer and author of The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World.

Though the deadline to apply for membership in the Butterflyways Project for 2022 has passed, we, as members of the Kimberley Nature Park, can echo this initiative here in the East Kootenay. The Columbia Mountains and Highlands, with their high mountain slopes, fertile valleys, diverse soil types and mix of sun and shade, create a wide range of plant habitats for invaluable, and threatened, pollinators. This guide describes local pollinators and recommends 100 local plants that provide habitat and nesting spots for them.

Pollinators include a wide range of animals, including bees, the most important pollinators. In fact, honeybees are responsible for pollinating over 110 crops that humans eat and use. Pollinators also include butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, wasps, ladybugs, birds, mammals (bats) and lizards (geckos). The habitats of all these animals are under threat and they need our help!

Local businesses and organizations are also taking proactive steps to create healthy environments for a range of pollinators. According to Shannon at Cranbrook’s Top Crop Gardens and Kimberley’s Top Crop Too, they strive to make all plants bee-friendly by following the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Program, a decision-making process for managing pests in an effective, economical, environmentally sound way, and using “bee stickers” on bee-friendly plants, including trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and seeds. To encourage even more pollinators, they are bringing in Mason bee houses to welcome the super-pollinator Mason bees.

It is essential that we humans do some heavy lifting, to support the busy butterflies and buzzing bees, as they do the vital work of pollinating our planet and feeding us.

And to add an element of wordplay: Why do bees have sticky hair?

Because they use honey combs!

By Dina Hanson


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