July 31, 2013

Teens plant gardens to help pollinators

As published in Country Routes

The bees will certainly appreciate the work done by Conservation Youth Corps (CYC) volunteers at Terra Cotta this summer, as will others who like to visit flower beds, including butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, wasps, ants, flies, beetles and, of course, humans.

Two pollinator gardens were planted at the Conservation Area in July by high school students – one team from Erin and Orangeville and the other from Mississauga.

“We’re trying to enhance the environment and provide habitat,” said Erin Glasser of Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), who helped with the planting. “We’re starting new education programs, so these gardens we are building we can use within our programming. For example, Grade 4’s, part of their curriculum is habitats and communities, so we can really utilize these gardens.”

Emily Verhoek of CVC led by example at the planting.
 The gardens were also ready in time for the July 20 Pollinator Workshop at Terra Cotta, designed to help landowners incorporate pollinator-friendly habitats into their properties. Each participant got a copy of A Landowners Guide to Conserving Native Pollinators in Ontario - it can be downloaded at paperworksdesign.ca.

“The worrying truth is that pollinator species are declining,” said Mike Puddister, CVC Director of Restoration and Stewardship. “This can have lasting impacts to ecosystem health and local agriculture. We can tackle the problem if we work cooperatively.”

Calvin Hyde and Jack Laidlaw of Erin dig holes
for plants in the new Pollinator Garden
at the Terra Cotta Watershed Learning Centre.
 Workshop participants learned about the current status of some key pollinators and how to create pollinator-friendly areas in their gardens or on their farms to provide a food source for native bees. Information was available on constructing bee nests and limiting the use of insecticides.

The Youth Corps program enables teens to earn volunteer hours for their diploma requirements, while making connections to nature areas with a combination of learning and much-needed manual labour.
“We try to make it local so it means something to them,” said Cameron Parrack, Assistant Program Coordinator for CYC and Community Outreach.

Students from Mississauga get a taste of the
wide-open spaces in the Credit’s upper watershed.
 Other projects in the same week included Pulling Garlic Mustard (an invasive species) at the Upper Credit Conservation Area near Alton and Planting Trees at the Erin Deer Pit.

The CYC program involves some 250 students, part of CVC’s broader effort that enables more than 3,000 community members to volunteer on projects throughout the watershed each year.

The annual contributions of community groups and individual volunteers add up to more than 12,500 hours of volunteer service, with an estimated economic value exceeding $200,000.

Caitlin McCleary of Orangeville
plants pollinator-friendly flowers.

Many species of insects rely on pollen as food, and transfer it between plants. This cross-pollination stimulates the creation of fruit and seeds, and disburses genetic characteristics that strengthen the plant population.

Pollination Canada says more than $1 billion worth of our fruit and vegetable production relies on pollinators, but that they are threatened by loss of habitat, fewer food sources, disease and agricultural pesticides.

The decline of the honey bee population, partly due to parasites, is a special concern since they not only pollinate but create a product that is of high value to humans.

The honey bee is an import to North America. As they become less plentiful, there is renewed focus on the hundreds of species of native bees. Many of these are solitary, living only one season, storing pollen in a nest for their offspring to eat during the winter.

A diversity of suitable flowers is needed in a supportive garden, since different pollinators are attracted to different plants, based on scent, colour and structure. Wild ginger, for example, is particularly convenient for ants.

In the shady area by the Learning Centre, the Youth Corps planted species such as such as wild strawberry, columbine, geranium and raspberry. In the sunny area near the constructed wetland they planted butterfly milkweed, wild bergamot and foxglove.

Pollination Guelph has planted a series of gardens, and is planning a huge (112 acre) Pollination Park at the decommissioned Eastview Landfill Site.