Neighbours bond as they help protect pollinators
Point Grey neighbours bond as they plant native shrubs to help protect pollinators
It's an idea that's taken root across the Lower Mainland — planting native shrubs and flowers to help birds, bees and butterflies that pollinate but are struggling today because of pesticides and climate change.
The Vancouver Butterflyway Project brought together two dozen Point Grey neighbours on the last weekend in September, some of them for the first time.
“We thought we're helping endangered native pollinators, but with COVID it turns out we're helping humans, too,” said organizer Melissa Haynes, a volunteer butterfly ranger with the David Suzuki Foundation's pollination project. “Most of these neighbours have never met, despite living only two doors apart for 30 years.”
Anna's hummingbirds, honey bees, western tiger swallowtails, the western monarch and other pollinators benefit from the program. It's believed the same factors causing the decline in bee populations are behind the fall in butterfly numbers as well: Wildfires, drought, flooding and chemicals.
The butterflyway project creates pollination patches in yards, low-lying balconies, green spaces and schools.
The idea to plant flowering native vegetation for pollinators along a two-block strip of Crown Street in Point Grey germinated after neighbours in a nearby house on another street discovered groundnest bees in their yard. Groundnest bees are harmless — the males don't even have stingers — but the folks whose yard they made their home in were scared.
Haynes and others offered to build an enclosure, but, by the time they showed up, the homeowners already had killed the nest with insecticide.
“My friend Bruce Smith and I were talking and he said instead of moping about it, let's educate people and get the community involved,” Haynes said.
The native pollinator gardens that were planted sit across the street from Lord Byng Secondary and Ecole Jules Quesnel, which draw 800 families a day to the strip of Crown land. The gardens are planted on front boulevards, a practice the City of Vancouver encourages as long as guidelines are followed, Haynes said.
Besides the plants all being native, everything else used in building the little plots was upcycled material from nature — wood from a nearby tree the city cut into logs after it fell and smashed a parked car, beautiful twisted branches, drainage tiles and horse manure, etc.
“Our kids collected seashells and rocks all summer, ever since we mentioned this to them,” Rob Thomson said of his four- and eight-year-olds as they and other neighbourhood kids gave out yips of delight and joy.
“They had a lot of say in where the stuff goes, it's been a lot of fun for them.”
Added Allison Barnes, a master gardener who mingled with the planters to give them tips and answer any questions they had: “I've never seen a block of such happy people.”
The street is home to widows, young families such as the Thomsons, people from five continents, university students and from all sorts of cultural backgrounds, according to Haynes.
The Thomsons are the most recent residents, having moved in a few months ago from a small city in Oklahoma, after COVID-19 hit, so they hadn't met a lot of their neighbours before Sunday.
“This has brought everyone together,” Rob Thomson said, “especially during COVID times as we all avoid each other for health reasons. It's a great story. There's a sense of community. It would be a cool idea anytime, but especially now.”
This (project) has brought everyone together, especially during COVID times as we all avoid each other for health reasons. It's a great story. There's a sense of community.