Did you know 75% of the world’s food chain is dependent on pollinators?
As well, here in the City of Ottawa, 80% of our geographic area is rural and agricultural land. Supporting pollinators, native species and our naturalized greenspaces is crucial to supporting our natural ecosystems and biodiversity. While Ottawa is blessed with an abundance of agricultural land, it typically involves the clearing of native species in favour of food crops and livestock. It is important that throughout the City of Ottawa, in both the urban and rural areas, pollinators are given space, and that we are prioritizing and supporting native plant species that act as food and/or nurseries. Pollinators include a variety of animals and insects such as bees, beetles, flies, wasps, ants, hummingbirds, and even bats! They are the very foundation of our ecosystem and food chain.
In recent years, a large decline has been observed in the world’s essential pollinator populations, including the bee and the monarch butterfly, this is just as true in Ottawa. The City recognizes the importance of supporting these populations and has a number of initiatives in support of this work. Below, you will lots of helpful information and tips on what we, as residents, can do in our own homes and gardens to help.
Milkweed & The Monarch Butterfly
Milkweed was once included on Ontario’s list of noxious plants but it was removed in 2014. It is now understood as an important part of the ecosystem, as monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed, and the larvae feed exclusively on the leaves of the plant.
Consider including milkweed in your garden. Seeds can be collected from the pods of the plant in the late summer, and sprinkled around in a location to grow in the following spring. If you happen to see a milkweed plant on your property, leave it be if you are able.
For more on milkweeds and the monarch butterfly, visit: https://www.monarchwatch.org/
Innes Ward Pollinator Gardens and Naturalized Areas
With much of Innes Ward flanked by the Green Belt and having numerous parks and greenspaces, it shouldn’t be a surprise that pollinator havens can be found here. Recently, I worked with staff and a local resident to help protect a natural milkweed garden. This wonderful resident had been watching over this section of land, and observed it as an important breeding ground for monarch butterflies. Not only was this space providing an essential opportunity for these at-risk butterflies to lay their eggs and their larvae to feast, but the biodiverse growth also provided a safe-haven and made it more difficulty for predators to snap them up. I can’t wait to watch this pilot project over the next year!
City of Ottawa Initiatives
The City of Ottawa has made many efforts to ensure that key pollinators are protected and supported through the municipality.
City Hall Pollinator Garden
In 2019, the City of Ottawa implemented its first official Bee Hotel at City Hall, along with a complete pollinator garden. The first year results were incredible, with over 40 different species of wildlife observed making use of the green refuge in the heart of the city. Of note, staff observed 14 species of bees, 10 species of wasps, eight species of pollinating flies, and two butterflies. The garden continues to grow near the Lisgar Street entry.
The Official Plan
The City’s Official Plan includes a suite of policies aimed at
- preserving Ottawa’s natural heritage system and greenspaces
- promoting the use of native plant species in landscaping, for both public and private projects
- The Park Development Manual establishes specific targets for naturalization in new parks, which supports biodiversity and pollinators.
- The Maintenance Quality Standards for roads, sidewalks, parks and sports fields explicitly recognize the importance of maintaining some areas in a naturalized state to support biodiversity.
- The use of pesticides on City property is limited, per provincial legislation (before this legislation took effect, the City had restricted pesticide use through its own corporate policy)
For more information on the City’s work to support bees and other pollinators, visit: https://ottawa.ca/en/living-ottawa/environment-conservation-and-climate/wildlife-and-plants/pollinators
What can you do?
Residents can do the following to support pollinator populations:
- Focus on planting native species in your garden.
- You can work to expand existing gardens and shrink empty lawn space.
- Avoid the use of pesticides.
- Connect with other members of the community that are working to support naturalized areas.
- Participate in community cleanups.
Pollinator Gardens are a fun and easy way to support pollinators. These gardens are fairly flexible and can be grown in a container, or, make up the bulk of your property. A pollinator garden includes a variety of flowering plant species, ideally, those native to the region.
Some plants you might include in your garden are goldenrod, wild bergamot, black-eyed Susan, sunflowers, and milkweed. It is also important to avoid invasive species such as day lilies, lily of the valley, purple loosestrife and honeysuckle.
For more tips on what to grow and avoid, visit: https://ottawahort.org/native-plants-for-your-garden/