Pollinators

Pollinators are animals that help plants produce seeds and the fruits that hold them. They do this by spreading pollen from one part of the plant to another, which fertilizes the plant. It is estimated that 35 per cent of global crop production relies on pollinators! Without them, we would have much less food and much less variety. Pollinators are important members of our communities. They greatly contribute to our quality of life and the health of our ecosystems.

Pollinators include various species of insects (such as bees and butterflies), birds (such as hummingbirds) and even mammals (such as bats). Many pollinators have tiny hairs on their bodies which collect pollen that is transferred to different parts of the flower. Monarch butterflies and bees are the best-known pollinators.

 Common fruits that require pollination
  • Peaches and nectarines
  • Pears
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Apples
  • Raspberries

What is Richmond Hill doing to support pollinators?

We're working to foster natural and built communities that support pollinators. Through our Environment Strategy, our partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation, and participation in the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and Bee City Canada programs, we're committed to:

  • Creating pollinator habitat through community vegetable and pollinator gardens, and new gardens on City land
  • Restoring Monarch butterfly habitat by planting native milkweed and nectar plants on City land
  • Planting native wildflowers and flowering species at planting events
  • Continuing the Healthy Yards program which subsidizes the sale of native plants to Richmond Hill residents
  • Partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation to create Richmond Hill's Butterflyway through wildflower canoe plantings throughout the City
  • Encouraging residents to plant flowering species by distributing wildflower seed packets at City events
  • Raising awareness and educating residents about the benefits of pollinators
  • Celebrating pollinators through annual Pollinator Week (June) and National Flight of the Monarch Day (August 22) proclamations and activities

What can you do to support pollinators?

Supporting pollinators can be as easy as providing them with food and shelter. Here are some helpful tips for the most common species:

Butterflies

Many butterfly species in Canada do not migrate, so your yard can be a home through their entire life cycle!

Tips for establishing healthy butterfly habitat:

  • Plant native flowering plants. To be a host to butterflies all year long, plant a variety of species that will bloom in different seasons. Avoid planting exotic plants or hybrids, since they can often be sterile and not useful for pollinators. Instead, plant native plants and heirloom varieties. Adult butterflies are especially attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms. Caterpillars are pickier eaters than the adults; the National Wildlife Federation has a list of plants that common caterpillars like to eat. These plants will also act as host plants where adults will lay their eggs.
  • Set up nectar feeders. If your garden is lacking in nectar plants, you can set up nectar feeders at sunny spots in your yard using a sugar solution (1 teaspoon of sugar mixed with 18 teaspoons of water).
  • Let a part of your yard be wild. Some butterflies like to gather on wet sand and mud, and soak up the water and minerals. You can also avoid raking leaves, and leave bark and firewood piles at small sites so that eggs, pupae and adults have a safe place to overwinter.
  • Avoid using insecticides and herbicides. Go organic and handpick the pests and weeds or use physical barriers to keep pests out.
  • Provide places to rest. Place flat stones in the sunny spots of your yard so that butterflies can rest and bask in the sun.
 
Bees 

In making your garden butterfly-friendly, you will also end up attracting other pollinators such as bees to your yard. There is a common misconception that all bees sting. However, most species cannot sting and none of our native species are aggressive. You can avoid getting stung by keeping your distance from them, since they only sting if provoked or to defend their nest.

Bees are excellent pollinators, especially in urban settings. Here are some tips to support healthy bee habitat:

  • Plant native plants. Bees get their food (nectar and pollen) from flowers, so be sure to plant a variety of native flowers that bloom at different times of the year. The David Suzuki Foundation has a helpful list of native plants that bloom in different seasons. Plant flowers of different shapes and colours (especially blue, purple, violet, white and yellow) in clumps, four feet in diameter, to maximize their visibility to bees. Avoid using herbicides and mow your grass less often so that flowering plants such as clover, creeping thyme and dandelions can grow.
  • Provide nesting places. Of the many species in Richmond Hill, some live in hives as social colonies, such as the Honey and Bumble bees. However, most are solitary, and live in tunnels above or below ground. You can help these wild bees by leaving bare patches of soil near your pollinator garden and by keeping plant stems and fallen logs in your backyard.
  • Avoid using insecticides. Insecticides can harm bees and other pollinators. Avoid using them, or planting plants with pretreated insecticides. Go organic and hand pick pests or use physical barriers to keep them out.
  • Create bee baths. Bees and other beneficial insects cannot land in bird baths. Place a shallow plate with a few rocks in sites where you notice bee activity, and fill it with water. Do not submerge the rocks, since they act as landing pads. Change the water regularly to prevent mosquito larvae. This will also attract ladybugs that will eat the aphids in your garden!
 

You can also help by taking part in planting native wildflowers and flowering species at planting events in Richmond Hill through the Community Stewardship Program and/or creating pollinator habitat through community gardens. In addition, we encourage you to take advantage of our Healthy Yards Program which offers native plants to residents at an affordable cost.