Pollinators are simply animals that move pollen between plants. By doing so, plants reproduce, resulting in seeds, fruits, and nuts. Beyond food production, pollination also allows for the regeneration of forests and grasslands, important habitats that filter our water and sequester carbon dioxide. Because of pollinators, we have food to eat, air to breathe, and clear water to drink! 

The most important pollinators are bees. Globally, over 20,507 species of bees have been identified. Each species is different and can range in colour across the rainbow. Some are fuzzy, some are shiny metallic, and many have specialized body parts that help them collect pollen and nectar from very specific flowers. 

Butterflies are also extremely important pollinators! While most butterflies can collect nectar from a variety of flowers, their caterpillars often can only eat one kind of plant. For example, Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed, Silvery Checkerspots feed on Yellow Coneflower, and endangered Mottled Duskywing caterpillars feed on New Jersey Tea.

Unfortunately, populations of native pollinators are changing and there are many causes, including the:

• widespread use of pesticides in both agricultural and residential spaces

• loss of native flowers due to larger agricultural fields, expansive paved surfaces and turfgrass in cities, and non-native plants

• changing climate, which is already encouraging flowers to bloom earlier, causing some species to be out of sync with their food source

Ontario’s native pollinators need native Ontario plants!

Wildflowers like coneflower, raspberry, lupine, flax, nettle, and dogwood. They also need groundcovers like Wild Strawberry and Bunchberry, grasses like Little Bluestem and Indian grass, shrubs, and trees like Witch-hazel and Willow. They need patches of bare soil for building nests. They need you to leave the leaves so they have safe spaces to overwinter.

Find out if your town has a Pollinator Strategy. Ours doesn’t, so Pollinate Collingwood is working in our community. We are establishing native plant gardens in parks, schools, and businesses. We are talking to people about native food webs and helping residents make changes on their own properties. We are starting conversations, and we already see change. 

How can you help?

Look at your outdoor space and find ways to incorporate native plants and wildlife habitat. Avoid using chemicals on your property, including pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Embrace insects as an essential part of our ecosystem – our world depends on it!