Creating pollinator habitat in the Etobicoke & Mimico watersheds

Imagine living in a world without coffee, chocolate, vegetables, oils, nuts and fruits. Thanks to hardworking pollinators we don’t have to live in such a world.

Canada is home to over 1000 species of pollinators, but these populations are threatened, partially due to urban development and the resulting fragmentation and depletion of natural areas. In recent years North American bees have suffered from a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.The causes of CCD are still being investigated. Canadian bee-keepers reported losing about 200,000 colonies in the spring of 2013 alone, more than a quarter of the total. Pollinator numbers are declining globally due to habitat loss and disease.

Native wildflowers provide valuable natural habitat for a variety of wildlife and are an essential part of maintaining healthy biodiversity. They attract a group of pollinator species including bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and other insects.

With that in mind, TRCA is creating pollinator habitat by restoring existing meadow plots and creating new areas. Heart Lake Conservation Area is one site where several new meadow plots have been created at two different locations throughout the park. The “bowl” located at the entrance to the park has several plots located along the slope and work continues to enhance this area. The other location is adjacent to the Medicine Wheel Garden (Gitigaan Mashkiki) located further north along the access road within the park.

Local residents, community groups and students participate each year to perform maintenance on the plots, practice control methods of invasive vegetation and plant additional native wildflowers each year.

Additional enhancements include applying mulch along the pathways between the plots to allow visitors easier access. This also helps to keep invasive plants from encroaching into the plots allowing native wildflowers to flourish.

Habitat structures such as bee condos, bird structures and butterfly boxes have been added to provide nesting areas for these important pollinator species. These structures have proven very successful and in the first year of being put in place, local birders reported eastern blue birds nesting and stated it was the first time they had been sighted in this area in many years. The bee condos have been showing close to 100% occupancy from the solitary bee species over the years.