Create a Pollinator-Friendly Garden – Tips From the Experts

Pollinator Garden

It’s a gloomy time for the bees.
A team of researchers at York University
is warning that the American bumblebee is facing imminent extinction from Canada, according to an April 2019 report from CBC News.

Bad news for our food supply.

Mississauga’s Community Development Coordinator, Parks Operations

“Pollinator gardens can be of any size and placed out in your yard or balcony to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.”
— Hazel McColl

About 42 of the more than 850 species of bees in Canada are bumblebees—important pollinators needed to grow crops like apples, tomatoes, blueberries and legumes, as well as trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Approximately 400 species of bees call Ontario home, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of all pollination activity. And pollinators are responsible for pollinating over 30 per cent of our food supply.

The great news? There is something we can do.

It’s now more important than ever to consider creating pollinator friendly gardens and patios.

Sound intimidating? It’s actually not that difficult, according to Hazel McColl, Mississauga’s Community Development Coordinator, Parks Operations.

“Pollinator-friendly gardens make our communities vibrant. And it’s easier to start a pollinator-friendly garden than people think,” says McColl.

Here’s the science: pollinators allow plants to make fruit or seeds by moving pollen from one area of the plant to another. Acting as a fertilizer, the pollen is an important step in the plant creating fruit or seeds, a step which isn’t possible without the help of a pollinator species. The most common types of pollinators are bees, hummingbirds and some species of butterflies, including the majestic monarch. Even chocolate depends on a single species of fly, which is appropriately called the ‘chocolate midge’ (even more proof that pollinators are essential to life).

So, how can you do your part to create a hospitable garden for our pollinating friends?

“All you need are grasses, shrubs, wildflowers, good draining soil, a source of drinking water for the pollinators and a site with at least six hours of sun,” advises McColl.

Tips from the Experts:

  • Pick plants that are rich in nectar or pollen to attract pollinators.
  • Try adding annuals and perennials that bloom all season, encouraging pollinators to come to your garden all summer.
  • Use plants that are purple or blue. That’s the colour bees are most attracted to; they can see them much better than the reds, pinks, yellows and whites that are more often used in gardens.
  • Add native plants to your landscape. Native plants have evolved with native pollinators so they are best at supporting them.
  • Provide nesting sites for bees. Some solitary bees nest in hollow tubes, so installing a bee box or leaving plant stems standing through the winter can provide locations for these bees to nest. Other bees nest in the ground, so make sure to leave a patch of open soil for them.
  • Provide host plants for butterflies. Some caterpillars (which become butterflies) need very specific food. For example, the Monarch caterpillar requires milkweed to become the beautiful butterfly we are all familiar with. Adding host plants to your property will help support butterflies through all life stages.
  • Provide water: A small dish with rocks, sand and water will attract butterflies looking for water, nutrients and salts. Some species may even congregate for a puddle party!
  • Keep areas (ideally 10 per cent of your gardening space) undisturbed, unmulched and unwatered. Sandy soil is best for the 70 per cent of our native bees who live in the ground.
  • Keep your garden pesticide free and buy pesticide free plants.
  • Use plants that are purple or blue. That’s the colour bees are most attracted to; they can see them much better than the reds, pinks, yellows and whites that are more often used in gardens.

Planning a Pollinator Garden

Go Native: Pollinators are best adapted to local, native plants… conveniently, these need less water than ornamentals.

Bee Bountiful: Plant large patches of each plant species for better foraging efficiency.

Bee Showy: Flowers should bloom in your garden throughout the growing season. Visit to learn about which flowers are best for season-long pollination.

Bee Diverse: Plant a diversity of flowering species with abundant pollen and nectar and specific plants for feeding butterflies and moth caterpillars.

Bee Patient: It takes time for native plants to grow and for pollinators to
find your garden, especially if you live in the city or the suburbs.

Bee Gentle: Most bees will avoid stinging unless they feel the need for self-defence. Fact: male bees do not sting!

Bee Chemical Free: Pesticides and herbicides kill pollinators!

Bee Homey: Make small piles of branches to attract butterflies and moths. Provide hollow twigs, rotten logs with wood-boring beetle holes and bunchgrasses, and leave stumps, old rodent burrows and fallen plant materials for nesting bees. Leave dead or dying trees for woodpeckers.

Bee Sunny: Provide areas with sunny, bare soil that dry and are well-drained, preferably with south-facing slopes.

Bee a Little Messy: Most of our native bee species nest underground, so avoid using weed cloth or heavy mulch.

Bee Aware: Observe pollinators when you walk outside in nature. Notice which flowers attract bumblebees or solitary bees, and which attract butterflies.

Bee Friendly: Create pollinator-friendly gardens both at home, at schools and in public parks. Help people learn more about pollinators and native plants.


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