Saving Pollinators with the David Suzuki Foundation

EnviroKidz proudly welcomes the following guest blog post by Winnie Hwo, Senior Public Engagement Specialist for the David Suzuki Foundation. Founded in 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation works to conserve and protect our natural environment, creating a more sustainable Canada. The David Suzuki Foundation is one of our partner organizations through 1% for the Planet. One of their most recent projects, the Butterflyway Project, is a citizen-led movement planting pollinator patches in neighborhoods across Canada to provide a habitat for butterflies, bees, other beneficial bugs. Learn more about Richmond, BC’s efforts with the Butterflyway Project below!

It started in Matthew McNair Secondary School’s science lab and adjacent pollinator garden. 41 Richmond Butterflyway Rangers (“rangers” are what we call our volunteers) were appointed for the David Suzuki Foundation’s national program to help save precious pollinators. They spent their first training day looking under microscopes and learning from bee and butterfly experts.

Richmond Butterflyway Rangers come from all walks of life. The first to join included the president of the Richmond Garden Club, three city staff and a McNair science teacher. They’re also grandmothers, preschool moms, university graduates and high school students.

Their urgent mission: Help wild bees and butterflies faced with the biggest challenge — to survive.

University of California (Davis) entomologist Art Shapiro spent more than four decades counting butterflies across central California. His research shows that wild pollinator decline is widespread. It goes beyond butterflies that need specific habitats or food sources. Even “generalist” species are doing poorly.

In 2014, ecologist Laura Burkle of Montana State University told WIRED, “Almost 90 percent of the world’s flowering species require insects or other animals for pollination. That’s a lot of plants that need these adorable creatures for reproduction. And if we don’t have those plants, we have a pretty impoverished world.”

Honeybees and other wild species pollinate one out of every three bites of food. If bees and butterflies don’t do well, neither do we.

The Richmond Butterflyway Rangers joined others across Canada in Victoria, Montreal, Toronto and Markham. They planted pollinator-friendly wildflowers (called “patches”) on balconies and rooftops, and in backyards, schoolyards and city parks. They shared information, collaborated with strata councils and neighbors, and learned how to adopt nearby parks, determined to help build a national Butterflyway.

Four training days in April included sustainable cooking, build-a-bee-house workshops, and site visits to the city’s pollinator pastures.

Closeup of a honey bee on a sunflower.

While only 12 butterfly patches are needed for official Butterflyway designation, this group far exceeded our expectations. Thanks to the City Parks Department’s generosity, they doubled that goal and built 24 pollinator patches!

The Richmond Rangers also participated in major community events, including the Steveston Salmon Festival, the Metro Vancouver Garlic Festival at the Richmond Sharing Farm, and the Harvest Festival at the Garden City Lands.

To celebrate a successful first season, the Richmond Rangers celebrated at Terra Nova West Dyke Trail for a cycling and parade in the rain. It’s not an exaggeration to say they ended their first season with a “splash”!

I’m pumped for next year. A few interested Rangers are already waiting in the wings! Stay tuned – the Butterflyway Rangers begin recruitment for their 2018 season in the spring.

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