#GreenHamOnt: Bees Please - How a Hamilton project is empowering communities to create a pollinators paradise.

Image by Martin LaBar | flickr.com

Image by Martin LaBar | flickr.com

With over 3,400 acres of parkland, 137 kilometres of hiking trails, and more than 120 waterfalls, Hamilton has a diverse and unique natural environment.  Hamilton is becoming increasingly known for its fascinating environmental features; however, it wasn't long ago that the city was considered the ‘industrial armpit of Canada’. Now, Hamilton is working to become a pollinator's paradise.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the plight of the bumblebees and butterflies. These two major pollinators have faced some serious hardships over the past several years, including chemical threats and habitat loss. If you don’t remember that Magic School Bus episode where Ms. Frizzle turns the bus into a bee, you may be asking, “But what do actually pollinators do? Why are they even important?”

About 75% of all flowering plants depend on pollinators to move pollen grains from plant to plant. That means one out of every 3 bites of food is dependent on pollinators. These little guys do the work to get so many healthy foods on your table. When I attended the 2015 Hamilton Environmental Summit, I already knew this. I knew bees and butterflies were important; I knew they were in danger; and I knew work was being done to eliminate the chemical threats (I think I may have even signed an online petition or two) – but that’s where it ended for me, because I thought there was nothing else one average citizen could do.

The Hamilton Pollinators Paradise Project proved me wrong. A collaborative effort between Environment Hamilton, the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, and the Edith H Turner Fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Pollinators Paradise Project was working to make the city of Hamilton a paradise for pollinators by planting corridors of milkweed and wildflowers in public parks and in the backyards of average citizens. The result is the creation of pollinator habitat, as well as an increase in community knowledge of these species and neighbourhood beauty as a bonus.

Through their workshop, they outlined simple ways that anyone can contribute to a paradise for our native pollinators. You can follow the suggestions on their webpage to plant native species in your own backyard garden. You can build a small bee box to provide housing for bee larvae over the winter. You can even take on some guerilla gardening and throw their native seed bombs into alleyways, forgotten spaces, or parking lots. The Pollinators Paradise Project calls this acting on behalf of bio-diversity.

Still not sure you have what it takes to give up your precious lawn? The Pollinators Project shares the stories of other average citizens and what they’ve done to take the leap. You can read about Joanne Tunnicliffe, who’s created a pollinator garden at her local church, which won the 2013 Green Sacred Spaces Award.  Or perhaps the story of the Melanson’s will inspire you – a family who released over 150 monarch butterflies out of their backyard garden which started four years ago with a couple milkweed plants.  You could also start by joining a Community Planting Day and learning more about planting pollinator patches.

As for me, I’m going to start with my native plants seed bomb. I’ve already picked the perfect spot to let these native wildflowers, well, go (grow) wild.