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    Lanark County Stewardship Council

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    The BUZZ on Bees & Other Wild Pollinators

    Pollination is critical to life on the planet — for healthy ecosystems and biodiversity and for agriculture and our food supply. 

    Pollination takes place in many ways; wind and insects are the two biggies.All grains, grasses and many trees are pollinated by wind. Insects pollinate the majority of all other plants — fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, herbs, wild flowers and shrubs. Pollinating insects include bees, ants, butterflies, flies, and wasps. 

    Eighty percent of all wild, flowering plant species would not exist without pollination!We humans depend on pollinators. About one-third of our diet comes directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants. “Managed and wild pollinators contribute $992 million to the Ontario economy annually” (from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs).

    Bees are by far the most important pollinators. There are about 400 wild bee species in Eastern Ontario — 400! (part of a global family of 20,000 species). The two most common groups of wild bees are solitary bees and social ground nesters.

    Wild bee populations are under stress. The major causes of stress are habitat loss, exposure to pesticides, climate change and weather. Habitat loss includes elimination of weeds from road allowances, fencerows, and hydro lines.  

    Wild Pollinators—Hands-on Conservation 

    Habitat is the key to conserving pollinators. Whether you have a small garden in town, a rural property or a farm, there are practical steps you can take to protect, enhance and provide habitat — improving the health, abundance, and diversity of local pollinators.

    LCSC’s Seven Easy Steps to Conserving Wild Pollinators:

    1. Learn about the pollinators you meet every day (see Explore Our Pollinatorsfrom the Canadian Wildlife Federation). 
    2. Nurture your garden, yard, rural property with the needs of pollinators in mind.
    3. Plant native plants, those that co-evolved with the native wildlife of your region — they’ll thrive and are the preference of wild pollinators. One of the many good guides to native plants is Nectar and Pollen Plants for Native Wild Pollinators, by Susan Chan.
    4. Plant large blocks of native pollinator preferred plants — rather than wasting energy going from one plant here/one plant there, large patches make it easier for the pollinators.
    5. Plant for three seasons, pollinators emerge in early spring and forage into the fall. See Susan Chan’s book listed above. 
    6. Provide nesting habitat from bare soil (for ground nesting bees) to pollinator nest boxes. The US Department if Agriculture’s booklet, Enhancing Nest Sites For Native Bee Crop Pollinators, is a great resource.
    7. Plant milkweed, the food of Monarch Butterflies, a native pollinator.

    One other great resources is Roadsides, a project to create pollinator-habitat patches along roads, in unused public spaces and in home gardens, Ontario Horticultural Association. As the Guide indicates you will need to check with the level of government responsible for the roadside you want to turn into great bee habitat; in particular, you will want to make sure the section of road you have chosen is not slated for pesticide or herbicide spraying.

    Pollinators on the Farm

    Farm families are front line stewards of the environment and are making their farms wild pollinator friendly.  

    Farmers: Leaders in Pollinator Protection: Ontario Nature’s Youth Council began a campaign in spring 2014 to protect Ontario’s declining pollinator populations.
    Through this video, they explore how farmers play a vital role in pollinator conservation, simply by creating viable habitat on their lands. 

    A good publication, geared to farms, is Six Steps to Protect and Encourage Native Wild Pollinators on Your Land.

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