Planting for Pollinators
Posted: April 6, 2017
Choose the pollinator:
A) An ant climbing a sugar maple
B) A bee landing on a sunflower
C) A bat hanging from an American Basswood
D) All of the above
If you chose ‘D’ you were absolutely correct! Although bees are most commonly associated with plant pollination, Ontario’s pollinators also include wasps, ants, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and some species of birds and bats.
Why are pollinators important?
Did you know that pollinators are vital to Ontario’s ecosystems and economy, and that a big portion of the produce we eat would not exist without their help? Many fruits and vegetables require an animal pollinator to propagate, making Ontario’s pollinators an invaluable resource. It’s estimated that pollinators contribute over 900 million dollars to Ontario’s economy every year, based on the crops and plant-based products—such as medicines, dyes or fibres—that they help grow.
Ontario’s pollinator populations have, however, been on the decline due to a number of pressures. They’re facing threats from habitat loss, pests and disease, pesticides and climate change. Drastic changes must be made to ensure that our pollinators thrive; everyone can play a role in helping to protect these useful creatures.
How do trees help pollinators?
So what can you do to help? Planting pollinator-friendly plants can be extremely beneficial, but planting trees is also an excellent option to lend our pollinators a helping hand.
Trees support an incredible diversity of pollinators by providing food and habitat. Certain genera of trees, such as oaks (Quercus), have been shown to be closely associated with over 500 species of pollinators. Even those trees that don’t provide nectar and pollen are still beneficial in providing habitat and protection from the elements for many pollinator species. Some pollinators require snags or downed wood for nesting, which is why it is also important to leave fallen trees on your property when possible. Having a windbreak can also help pollinators forage when it’s windy, as many of them have trouble navigating properly over certain wind speeds.
Pollinators need access to pollen and nectar from early spring until late fall, so growing plants and trees with differing blooming times will optimize pollinator activity and survival. Trees are often the first to bloom, making them an incredibly important source of food for pollinators in the early spring. Some examples of native, pollinator-attracting trees include sugar maple (Acer saccharum), black cherry (Prunus serotina) and American basswood (Tilia americana).
Ontario’s pollinators provide an essential service, which is why efforts should be focused towards conservation and creating new and safe habitats in which they can flourish.
How can I get trees on my property?
If you are thinking about planting trees on your property, but you’re wondering how you might go about it, we can help. Forests Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program provides funding support and technical assistance for landowners looking to plant 2.5 acres or more. This can be planted as a field, fence row or windbreak. One of Forests Ontario’s planting partners will come to your property and work with you to develop a site plan that addresses your preferences and objectives. The planting partner will physically plant the trees, making the process as easy for you as possible. Get in touch with us to learn more about how to help out pollinators on your property.
Visit our website at: www.forestsontario.ca/50MTP or call us at 1-877-646-1193
Suzanne Perry is the Forestry Outreach Coordinator at Forests Ontario.