7 Ways to Help Save Butterflies and Bees
Canada’s Monarch butterfly and bee populations have been steadily declining over the past 20 years. So why does this matter? Over 30% of the food we eat is pollinated by pollinating insects and birds. Without birds, butterflies and bees, a whole lot of people would go hungry.
Butterflies and bees are also crucial to our country’s biodiversity. If you remove Monarch butterflies or bees, the insectivores that feed on them go into decline; whatever feeds on these insectivores also goes into decline, and it creates a ripple effect reverberating throughout the ecosystem.
Monarch butterflies feed exclusively on milkweed, and as more and more land is developed for agriculture, their habitat keeps shrinking and shrinking. With bees – both native Mason bees and European honey bees – the reasons for their decline are more varied and complicated, but the good news is we can help reverse this decline while beautifying our backyards at the same time. Here’s a list of plants and products you can introduce to your backyard or patio to help bring these vital species back from the brink.
- Mason Bee Houses Home offers a Mark’s Choice Mason Bee House to help attract these pollinators to your backyard. It’s made out of a solid block of wood by the Mennonites in St. Jacobs, Ontario, and comes with pre-drilled holes to provide these bees with ready-made nesting sites.
- Butterfly House While Monarch butterflies don’t use these, other varieties of butterflies do. Simply lay a couple of tree branches within a butterfly house so that butterflies can lay their eggs on them safely away from the songbirds that eat them.
- Milkweed Monarchs feed exclusively on milkweed. And what’s more, adults also lay their larvae on milkweed only, so you can begin to see its importance for Monarchs. Originally classified as a noxious weed, every province has since declassified milkweed as such over the past 10 years. These hardy species can be planted Canada-wide. All they need to thrive is some open soil and sunshine.
- Sunflowers These pleasant-looking flowers produce an abundance of easily accessible pollen. After all, a pollinating plant isn’t useful if a bee can’t get to its pollen. These flat-faced flowers attract bees of all kinds, they’re easy to grow and kids love them.
- Bee Balm (Monarda) This brightly coloured plant attracts bees like crazy, and it’s also a favourite of hummingbirds. It’s easy to grow and it’s reliably hardy enough to grow across the country. Plant in full sunlight from mid-summer through to early fall.
- Butterfly Nectar Within the birding section of your local Home Hardware you’ll also find butterfly nectar. Simply place some nectar in a saucer and you’ll have butterflies fluttering around in no time.
- Water! What’s really important – and a necessity for every species on the planet – is water! A birdbath, pond or water feature of some kind in your garden will go a long way towards attracting bees and butterflies. If you’re concerned about standing water in your backyard, change your birdbath water (instead of simply adding more water) on the same day every week and you’ll never have a problem (mosquito nymphs require 10 days to mature).