David Suzuki's Butterflyway

Butterflyway Project members (from left) George Gastle, Katherine Shaw, Fiona Reid and Kathy Gastle in the pollinator-friendly garden they created at Norval's McNab Park. - Melanie Hennessey/Torstar
Pollinating insects are getting a little extra assistance these days from a dedicated group of Halton Hills volunteers. The local residents are taking part in the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project, a citizen-led movement that aims to grow gardens for pollinators throughout the country. What started as a small program in five Canadian cities a few years ago with in-person training has expanded virtually during the pandemic to more than 100 communities, including Halton Hills. “There has been a sharp decline in pollinator populations in recent years due to climate change, loss of habitat and widespread use of pesticides,” explained Katherine Shaw, a Butterflyway ranger who heads up the program for Halton Hills. “Our goal is to create patches of pollinator-friendly habitat with the aim of stitching together neighbourhood-scale corridors for local butterflies, bees and beneficial bugs.”
The Esquesing 12 March – May – Sept - Oct 2020
Shaw and her team of eight have been busy, with five public gardens currently enrolled in the program. The volunteers have planted 300-plus plants of 62 different native species in Norval’s McNab Park.
“We’ve been busy weeding and watering the plants at McNab Park during this hot, dry summer, carting water from the nearby river to water the garden beds,” said Shaw. “Our labours have paid off as we’ve watched the new plants grow and thrive. We have seen several insect species visiting our flowers, too.”
New native pollinator gardens have also been created on the town hall property, while the Old Seed House Garden and Lucy Maud Montgomery Garden have added to their existing native pollinator plantings.
Willow Park Ecology Centre, which already had a butterfly garden, has joined the program as well. The Butterfly Way Project promotes the use of native plants as they’re already adapted to local conditions and don’t require fertilizer or pesticides, and use much less water, explained Shaw.
“As well, some species of wildlife are completely dependent on specific native plants to survive,” she added. “A good example of this is the monarch butterfly which uses only milkweed as its host plant.”
On a smaller scale, dozens of local residents have become involved in the project by either starting pollinator gardens from scratch at their homes or adding to an existing garden. There are currently 43 private gardens registered in the Halton Hills area and counting.
While funding isn’t provided through the program, Shaw said two of the local members have extensive pollinator gardens and are happy to donate plants to others.
The Old Seed House Garden and Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club have also contributed financially to help purchase native plants for the McNab Park and Old Seed House gardens.
Shaw said she’s been pleasantly surprised by people’s enthusiasm for the project, which has grown beyond her expectations.
“I think it has given us something worthwhile to do and something positive to focus on during difficult times,” she said. “Helping pollinators, while building a more eco-friendly community, has lifted each of us out of our individual lives and helped us come together to be part of something much bigger.”
Next year, the local group hopes to expand the garden at McNab Park and also work with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority on native pollinator plantings in Hungry Hollow.
For more information or to enrol in the project locally, email butterflywayproject@gmail.com.