Pollinators sustain life. Without them, we would not be able to sustain agricultural food production. Ecosystems would perish.
Pollinators and plants depend on each other to thrive. To celebrate Pollinator Week, we’re highlighting two pollinator partnerships at work in our watershed and the actions you can take to support them.
In your backyard
Blue vervain welcomes visitors
Strikingly tall blue vervain captures pollinator interest. Its blueish-purple flower spikes shoot up above its lance-shaped leaves. Blooming bottom to top throughout the summer, its numerous tubular flowers provide a continuous source of nectar for pollinators. It’s also the larval host plant for the common buckeye.
Growing up to 150 cm tall, blue vervain prefers moist to wet soil conditions in full or partial sun. It’s easy to establish by seed and spreads naturally, making it ideal for pollinator patches and meadow plantings. Growing well in disturbed areas, it’s also a good native alternative to invasive species like purple loosestrife.
Common buckeye captures the eye
Named for the large, bold eyespots on its wings, the common buckeye visits Ontario annually. While its distinguishing eyespots help deter predators, its plain underbelly allows it to blend into its surroundings.
Common buckeye caterpillars look almost as stunning as the butterflies. Bluish black with light orange stripes and spots, they feed on colourful wildflowers, like blue vervain. Adult butterflies prefer the nectar from native wildflowers, including those in the aster, sunflower, daisy, mint and milkweed families. Restore open, sunny areas like old fields to native wildflower meadows to attract these summer visitors.
Hoverflies lend a helping hand
Often mistaken for a wasp, hoverflies are harmless to humans but helpful to orchard growers. Their wasp-like yellow and black stripes deter predators, but they don’t have stingers. You can tell them apart by their large, fly-like eyes and single set of wings.
Fascinating to watch, hoverflies dart around like hummingbirds. They feed on a variety of nectar-rich native wildflowers and play an important role pollinating fruit trees. At the larval stage, some species feed on crop pests such as aphids. Others help break down organic matter to improve soil health. Planting cover crops like buckwheat is a great way to attract hoverflies to your fields
Buckwheat blooms for pollinators
A non-native, flowering summer annual, buckwheat is best planted after early-harvest crops to maximize bloom time. Fast-growing white or pink blooms can appear as early as three weeks after planting and last up to ten weeks. They provide abundant nectar for pollinators and beneficial insects, like hoverflies.
With roots concentrated near the soil surface, buckwheat loosens topsoil to make nutrients more available for incoming cash crops. Its broad leaves shield soil to suppress weeds and prevent erosion. This combination of benefits can reduce the need for chemical pesticides, which in turn reduces harm to native pollinators.
Funding is available to help farmers plant cover crops. Our agricultural stewardship coordinator can help you get started. Connect with us to learn more.