What is a Pollinator Pathway?

Pollinator habitat is becoming increasingly diminished and fragmented, due in part to the growth of human communities, transportation corridors and industry.

Almost 90%. Flowering plants across the globe that are dependent entirely or in part on animal pollination.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the creation of pollinator habitats can be quite complementary to these landscapes.

pollinator

By working together, private and public landowners can create pollinator pathwayspesticide-free corridors of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for pollinators and help them to disperse into new habitats in response to climate change.

Pollinator pathways restore and create a diversity of permanent, high-quality, wildflower-rich habitats. They can be created by connecting multiple features: blossoming pastures on farmland, boulevards planted with pollinator-friendly plants in towns and cities, backyard gardens, and transmission lines blooming with native wildflowers.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The goal is to connect properties at a distance that is within the range of most native pollinators in the area. For example, if local native bees have a range of about 750 metres, properties would be no farther apart than that, and ideally corridors of native habitat would connect these properties.

Definition: Pollinator Pathway is a pesticide-free corridor of native plants that provides nutrition and habitat for pollinators and helps them to disperse into new habitats.

Creating pollinator pathways requires a lot of coordination and planning, but the benefits are plentiful. Not only do they bolster the number of pollinators and the services they deliver, but they also provide habitat for other wildlife and an opportunity for people to participate in the planning and to interact with nature in a meaningful way.

Corporations Can Create Pollinator Pathways

Natural gas pipelines, electric transmission corridors, solar arrays and wind farms occupy millions of acres of land across the country. For safety reasons, many companies must maintain vegetation under a certain height on their fields and right-of-ways – the long strips of land under power lines, over/beside pipelines and along roads. Most pollinator-friendly plants are a good fit for these restrictions, making them a good option for managing vegetation on corporate landscapes.

Right of way

Companies can foster pollinator habitat on their land in a number of ways:

  1. Restore the disturbed landscape with natural, native vegetation – preferably with flowers and shrubs that are in bloom from early spring through to fall to ensure continuous pollen and nectar sources.
  2. Maintain vegetation in a way that minimizes harm to pollinators where possible. For example, cutting back on harmful herbicides, mowing only at the end of the summer once pollinators have finished using the plants, and removing invasive species.
  3. Companies can enhance pollinator habitat by planting flowers and shrubs that provide pollinators with nesting and overwintering sites.

Farmers can contribute to Pollinator Pathways

High-clearance sprayer working a canola field in Canada.
High-clearance sprayer working a canola field in Canada.

Farmers can help recover pollinator populations in a number of ways. They can create and maintain a greater diversity of natural habitats, for example by planting native flowering plants along the edges of croplands. The maintenance of hedgerows and woodlots also helps support wild pollinators, as many species nest within these habitats.

Farmers can decrease the exposure of pollinators to harmful chemicals by reducing their use of pesticides, seeking alternatives for pest control, and taking measures to reduce pesticide drift from crop plants to other areas. If using Honey Bee colonies for pollination, farmers can press for better pathogen control coupled with better regulation of trade and use of commercial pollinators.

In doing all of the above, farmers can protect the pollinators using their fields, contribute habitat to pollinator pathways, and boost the number of pollinators in their habitat overall.

You Can Contribute to Pollinator Pathways

Parent and child gardening

Do you have property? A backyard? A balcony? A community garden? You can be an integral part of creating national pollinator pathways.

Make a difference for Canada’s wildlife and sign the Ban With A Plan petition! There’s still time!

Pollinator Recovery? A Critical Step When Banning Neonics

Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths and flies, play critical roles in ecosystems and in the production of our food.

If you’ve eaten an apple or worn a comfy cotton t-shirt, you can thank a pollinator for transporting pollen between those plants’ blossoms.

40%
Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction.

Despite the important services they provide, the populations of many wild pollinators are declining, largely due to changes in their habitat, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, invasive species, disease and climate change.

Bumblebee
Bombus tenarius | Photo: Wendy Riley

The good news is that much can be done to bring pollinator numbers back. We can create habitat by planting pollinator-friendly plants along roadsides, in parks and along utility corridors. We can support sustainable agricultural practices, such as crop rotation and retaining hedgerows. We can ban the use of harmful pesticides.

These actions promote “pollinator recovery” and require attention from industry, individuals and governments at all levels.

It is imperative that we invest in initiatives to reverse the effects that pesticides and habitat loss have had on our pollinators. Together, we can do something about it and that is why planting a pollinator pathway across Canada and building a national monitoring program are key initiatives to stem the decline and build the numbers back up.” ~Carolyn Callaghan, CWF Senior Conservation Biologist, Terrestrial Wildlife

 What can the Governments of Canada Do?

Syrphid Fly | Photo: Allan McDonald
Syrphid Fly | Photo: Allan McDonald

Governments urgently need to provide the leadership necessary to recover pollinator numbers and diversity.

Through legislation, policy, strategies and plans, they have the power to enshrine pollinator protection and recovery into our society. Here in Canada, many municipal, regional and provincial governments are taking action.

For example, the cities of Vancouver and Montreal and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have all implemented bans against or reductions in the use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides. The city of Calgary has launched several pollinator-friendly projects, including a bee and butterfly boulevard consisting of wildflowers and a variety of nesting habitats. The city of Toronto released a Pollinator Protection Strategy that, among many initiatives, provides grants to community members to create pollinator habitat. Ontario has a Pollinator Health Action Plan committing the provincial government to monitoring the health of wild and managed bee populations.

Lagging Behind

Monarch Butterfly | Photo: Brenda Doherty, CWF Photo Club
Monarch Butterfly | Photo: Brenda Doherty, CWF Photo Club

While municipal, regional and provincial governments lead the charge in pollinator recovery across the country, is the federal government keeping pace? As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada has committed to support the development of national plans and strategies for the conservation of pollinator diversity. The CBD’s draft Pollinator Initiative Plan of Action for 2018 to 2030 encourages governments to consider four objectives when tackling protection and recovery. Canada has taken steps toward some of these objectives, but on others has a long way to go.

You can help, too! Sign the Ban With A Plan petition and tell government that we need a National Pollinator Recovery Action Plan.

Recipe for a Native Meadow

The meadows and prairies in southern Canada are blooming!

At the Canadian Wildlife Federation we’ve been busy experimenting by creating native meadows for pollinators at three sites in eastern Ontario.

All our sites are on roadsides or right-of-ways. These locations offer ideal low-growing places to provide additional habitat for pollinators. Together with our partners  HydroOne, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission  we wanted to share with you the following recipe for a native meadow:

Step #1: Select a site

Native meadows thrive in full sun. Sites can be anywhere from dry to moist, but thanks to all the rain this year, we’ve discovered that it’s easiest to work with sites that are at least dry by late spring! Sites with very few invasive plants (e.g., Wild Parsnip and Reed Canary Grass) are also easier to prepare for seeding.

Step #2: Prepare the site

Warning: This can be very time-consuming! To give native plants the best chance of survival, we needed well-prepared seed beds that were as weed-free as possible.

Alexis Latemouille preparing a pilot project site near Green’s Creek, Ottawa, managed by the National Capital Commission.
Alexis Latemouille preparing a pilot project site near Green’s Creek, Ottawa, managed by the National Capital Commission.

As part of our project, we’ve experimented with a number of methods for removing the competition:

  • Tilling
  • Planting oats to shade out the weeds
  • Spraying herbicides

We are also planning to prepare some sites over several seasons. By later this year, we hope to report which method was most successful at reducing weed competition and allowing the native species to thrive. We’ll continue to monitor this over the long term.

Step #3: Order native seed

Wet vs. Dry Ingredients

The “ingredients” for a meadow differ depending on each site. At our moister sites, we included the seeds of pollinator plants that like “wet feet,” such as Joe-Pye Weed and Boneset. For drier sites, the mix included plants like Pearly Everlasting and Woodland Sunflower.

Common Ingredient

We included Common Milkweed seeds at every site because this species can grow in a wide range of areas and is the host plant for Monarch Butterflies. It’s also an excellent nectar source for many insects.

Grasses to Wildflowers Ratio

Carolyn Callaghan collecting Common Milkweed seeds.
Carolyn Callaghan collecting Common Milkweed seeds.

All our mixes include around 40 per cent native grasses (which add nest sites for pollinators) and 60 per cent wildflowers (for a range of nectar and pollen). To find a seed supplier, consult CWF’s online database of native plant suppliers. We also collected several species locally last fall. This is a really fun activity and brought our mix for each site up to around 50 species. For more information, the Xerces Society has an excellent free download on collecting native seed.

Step #4: Weigh and mix

Weighing coarse native seeds, including native grasses and milkweed seeds.
Weighing coarse native seeds, including native grasses and milkweed seeds.

This part really is a lot like baking. Because native seed is expensive, we wanted to use exactly the right amount for each site and no more. The correct amount of seed was weighed according to the area of each site.

Mixing native seed with millet, a cover crop.
Mixing native seed with millet, a cover crop. | Mélange de semences indigènes et de millet, une culture de protection.

In the field, we mixed the native seed with a cover crop (either oats or millet). The cover crop has two functions. First, it thins out the native seeds and helps to spread them more evenly. Second, the crop will come up and help shade the young native plants for the first year, before being killed by frost. By next spring, the native seedlings will be ready to survive on their own.

CWF and Hydro staff survey the pollinator project.

Step #5: Add a crew with enthusiasm

CWF staff and volunteers (Samantha Reynolds, Emily Armstrong, Paul Wityk, Carolyn Callaghan, Kira Balson) seeding a HydroOne pilot project site in Ottawa.
CWF staff and volunteers (Samantha Reynolds, Emily Armstrong, Paul Wityk, Carolyn Callaghan, Kira Balson) seeding a HydroOne pilot project site in Ottawa.

This is the fun part. Order some sunshine and gather a crew. While it can feel somewhat daunting to arrive at a large site, we were surprised by how quickly we finished seeding. With eight keen staff and volunteers, we seeded a 1.5 hectare (three acre) site in just a couple of hours. We walked grid lines in both directions, flinging our mix widely.

Our goal was not to coat our sites in seed, but to “seed the seeders” – that is, give enough space to each plant to flower and fill the meadow over the next few years. We seeded in late spring, but fall can also be a great time to plant native meadows.

Step #6: Add patience in large quantities, and stand back

Just as with baking, waiting for results might be the hardest part. In this case, we have to wait months and maybe even a few years to see some species. For the time being, our work is done.

The rest is up to nature.

monarch restoration sign

We are proud to announce that over the past month, CWF and partners have followed this recipe and planted acres of roadside and utility corridor native pollinator habitat at different sites in eastern Ontario. A huge thanks to staff at HydroOne, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission who have worked so hard to make this pilot project possible, and to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for providing funding.

Watch for updates as the season unfolds!

Learn more about the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s work in Agriculture & Habitat.

A Passion for Canadian Bees

Bees are among the most familiar of insects, in part due to the familiar furry and robust bumble bees that are often featured in children’s stories, as characters in television programs and commercials, and used almost ubiquitously to represent all bees to the public. However, bumble bees make up less than 5% of the native bee species in Canada so there is a lot of bee diversity both in terms of the number of species and life history strategies that are not represented by these caricatures. With almost 900 bee species occurring coast to coast to coast in Canada, there is still much to learn, and much to save!

In addition to doing research on bees, I also provide information and support for the assessment of arthropod species at risk in Canada. I work as a taxonomist, identifying bee species found in Canada, finding and documenting new species found in Canada (Figure 1 and 2), and on rarer occasions, describing species that are new to science. I will always consider myself a student of bees as it seems that one can learn something new almost every day. I love exploring the world of insects (Figure 3), in particular native bees, though surprisingly I came to work on these important pollinators by a rather indirect route as my first love was botany. In fact, I still am very interested in plants, especially their reproductive biology (Figure 4).

As an undergraduate student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, I was interested in doing an undergraduate research project in botany – plants are very wonderful organisms! Unfortunately, the botany professors at that time were on sabbatical so there were no opportunities for me in their labs at the time. However, the entomologist at Acadia had a project on lowbush blueberry, particularly its pollination and pollinators, and this changed my life. I was hooked, and these topics have been what my career has been focused on ever since.

One of the things I soon realized is that there were few entomologists in Canada that were studying the taxonomy of Canadian bees; thus I faced a bit of an uphill battle to study pollinator diversity at first, but then realized I loved doing taxonomic work on bees. Between then and now I had excellent opportunities to work with and learn from great entomologist in Nova Scotia, and later during my doctorate degree at the University of Guelph and post doctorate research at York University, both in Ontario. These last two opportunities allowed me to work directly with world-renowned pollination and bee biologists.

Now I find myself at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum where I have worked as Curator of Invertebrate Zoology since 2012, and my love of bees continues to grow. As an adjunct professor at the University of Regina, I also get to work with undergraduate and graduate students – their enthusiasm continues to make my work in Saskatchewan very rewarding. The prairies are a great place to study bees, and the museum is an excellent place to do so!

Herbs for Wildlife — Planting Edible Herbs for You and Wild Neighbours!

Each year I grow herbs, mainly for me but a little for wildlife, too.

For my part, I enjoy their fragrance when rubbing leaves between my fingers. I enjoy seeing their varied colours and textures on the deck and in the garden beds. And, of course, I enjoy tasting their lovely flavours.

There is something so satisfying about making a meal and simply popping outside to pick fresh basil for a pizza, parsley for a salad or lemon thyme for tea. I also like to dry my own herbs so I have lovely vibrant green herbs in my jars during the winter rather than the brownish herbs you often find in stores.

hoverfly herb

But I also get satisfaction when I leave some stems to go to flower as I know their tiny blooms are useful for loads of pollinators. From flower flies to little blue bees, they all come and work busily amongst my flowers.

I have a large oregano patch that has prolific clusters of pinky purple flowers that always seems to be full of insects. I tend to leave most of the patch alone, harvesting only a section of it for myself. But even a small pot of basil with a few flowers can help our insect allies.

The Caterpillar Connection

swallowtail caterpillar herb

Then there are plants like dill, fennel and parsley that are not only useful for their flowers but Black Swallowtail caterpillars enjoy the leaves as much as we do. If you are willing to share your plant then you will likely get to enjoy the experience of young caterpillars growing and then the final stage of a magnificent butterfly to grace your garden, even if it is only for a short time.

In this case, if you are concerned about not having any leaves for yourself, you can grow or buy extra plants or start a second crop a few weeks after you planted the first. If you are buying plants, you can always keep a few plants in a screened in area if you have one.

Of course, it’s best if you have lots of nectar plants for the adult butterflies to enjoy. Include annuals such as zinnias and calendula or perennials like milkweeds, Echinaceas, Monardas (Wild Bergamot and Bee Balm) and Joe-pye Weeds.

Growing Herbs

Growing herbs can be quite simple as most are happy with a big enough pot in full sun. Be sure to water daily, especially for plants like Basil and those in smaller pots that dry out more easily. Some will like fertilizing so add a bit of compost to your soil mix when planting.

bee herb

When it turns cold, some herbs survive the winter in my garden, like Oregano and Lemon Balm. Tender plants, however, need to come inside to a sunny window sill in order to live another year.

The Importance of Proper Window Placement

As the days are shorter in the winter, the sun becomes more important than ever. I’ve learned the hard way that I just don’t have the windows suited to help them all survive the cold for seven months. In one house I didn’t have enough space with windows that get full sun. In another house I had the window but with a baseboard heater below which meant my plants were between extremes of temperature, overriding the lovely sunny spot. So typically, I only bring inside my one Rosemary plant. The rest, like Basil and Thyme, I start from scratch each year.

Learn more about edible plants and how to garden for wildlife.

A Good Start for Monarchs

The overwintering Monarch population in Mexico has increased. Let’s help them when they make their trip home to Canada!

The monarch butterfly boasts a 4,000 kilometre migratory trek – that’s 95 marathons! They begin their journey in the north, at the end of summer or early autumn. While western Monarchs aim to overwinter in California’s pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees, Monarchs east of the Rockies head to Mexico’s oyamel fir forests for the winter months.

Losses and Gains

The overall Monarch population has declined about 90 per cent since the 1990s. The Monarch was assessed as Endangered in Canada in 2016 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC).  The federal government has not yet decided whether to accept this recommendation and list the species officially as Endangered.

However, a recent count has shown that after years of declines, the number of Monarchs in the Mexican wintering area has increased.

© Donna Cook

“The latest assessments in Mexico show that 14 colonies of overwintering butterflies occupied a total area of 6.05 hectares of the oyamel fir forest,” says Carolyn Callaghan, Senior Conservation Biologist, Terrestrial Wildlife with the Canadian Wildlife Federation “This is a 144 per cent increase over the 2018 result, and the highest area recorded since 2006.”

The World Wildlife Fund Mexico in collaboration with partner organizations has been conducting the annual assessment of the oyamel fir forest since 1995.

The observed increase is thought to be due to favorable weather conditions across the eastern range throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2018. It may also be due in part to recent widespread and large-scale efforts across the US to restore thousands of hectares with milkweed and nectar plants.

“This is a much-needed and promising result indicating that Monarch did have the good year that many of us observed in southern Canada. However, millions of hectares of Monarch habitat have been lost in recent decades due to increases in herbicide use, changes in agriculture and other development. If positive Monarch population trends are to continue, then Canada needs to do its part in improving Monarch habitat at a landscape scale.”

Canadian Habitat is Key

A recent study using stable isotopes showed that a significant percentage of the Monarchs overwintering in Mexico originated in southern Canada. Yet Canada lags far behind in recovery efforts for the beleaguered species, says Callaghan.

Habitat restoration is already happening across the United States, where thousands of hectares of roadsides and utility corridors are being planted with milkweed and other nectar-bearing wildflowers to act as both breeding areas and fuel stops for migrating butterflies. State and federal departments of transportation, energy and agriculture are all actively involved.

The roadsides and utility corridors are also mowed and sprayed less, providing cost savings as well as crucial habitat for Monarch and many other pollinating insects. And now governments in the US are providing support for farmers to grow milkweed and nectaring plants to help the Monarch recover.

“CWF and dedicated partners are working hard to improve and increase habitat for Monarch in eastern Ontario,” she says. “We are hoping to expand our pilot project to help restore more of the migration network in southern Canada. With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundaton and the partnership of HydroOne, Lanark County, and the National Capital Commission, we are making habitat gains. With the partnership from the federal and provincial governments, we can play our part in restoring the Monarch migration network across the whole breeding range.” And that really would be good news for Monarchs.

Learn more about how CWF is helping the Monarch Butterfly and how you can get involved.

Devastating Downfall for Western Monarchs: A Harbinger of Things to Come?

All along the California coast in fall and winter, there are places you can visit where colonies of adult Monarch butterflies overwinter.

At the ocean’s edge, dozens or even hundreds of the brilliant orange butterflies gather, lighting up the coastal vegetation. I have always intended to visit with my kids. Sadly, recent survey results suggest that it would be best to hurry.

Many people are aware that Monarchs overwinter in Mexico. And this is true: the Mexican overwintering site contains mainly the Monarchs that migrate from breeding areas in central and eastern North America.

 

Monarch migration map
Map of the Monarch Butterfly migration. There are two distinct migrations: western and eastern. The western migration terminates on the California coast (see red highlighted area). Map © Xerces Society

Lesser-Known Western Monarchs

Much less known to Canadians is the fact that there is also a western migratory population of Monarchs. Most of these Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as southern BC, Oregon and Idaho, and aggregate every fall in hundreds of small clusters of coastal Pacific forest from northern California to Mexico.

Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as Oregon and Idaho.
Monarchs breed on western species of milkweed as far north as Southern B.C., Oregon and Idaho.

By November, most western butterflies have arrived on the coast and have formed stable colonies that will persist until February.  Every year at American Thanksgiving, the Xerces Society coordinates volunteers to conduct a census of these overwintering populations.

“Devastating” Downfall in Numbers

western monarchs on pink flower

Preliminary census results for the 2018 western Monarch counts are nothing short of alarming.

Counts this past Thanksgiving showed that California’s overwintering butterfly population has declined 86% over the previous year, which was already one of the lowest on record.

In the 1980s, the California coast hosted over 4 million butterflies. Early estimates from 2018 data are projecting just 30,000. Words like “catastrophic” and “devastating” are emerging from normally-restrained senior scientists.

Why Are Western Monarchs Declining?

What has caused such a tremendous decline? The precise reasons for the 2018 decline are unclear, but California’s devastating wildfire season, combined with historic droughts in the west could be to blame.

Wildfires in California
The 2018 wildlife season was the most destructive wildfire season on record in California. Approximately 8,527 fires burned over an area of 1,893,913 acres (766,439 ha).

The uncomfortable truth is that Monarchs across their entire North American range have faced many unrelenting threats for at least two decades. Loss of larval milkweed plants due to herbicide and pesticide use, crop intensification, and climate-related changes have already brought Monarch numbers across North America to all-time lows.

Foretelling the Future

monarchs-flying-blue-sky

Do the western survey results predict the future of the eastern migratory population? Time will tell.

Every February, scientists at MonarchWatch estimate the amount of area in the Mexican Oyamel fir forests that is occupied by overwintering Monarchs from central and eastern North America.  This population has also declined by around 90% since record keeping began.  

In 2018, many of us observed an excellent summer for Monarch in eastern Canada. But migration is risky, and intense tropical storms or prolonged drought during the fall migration can lead to high mortality.  We are both hopeful and anxious about this year’s results.

Working Towards Restoration for Monarchs

monarch restoration sign

Still, at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, we are not intending to sit and wait for the news. It is unthinkable that a beloved species that was previously abundant could be facing a perilous future. In 2018, with the help of the Ontario Trillium Fund, CWF launched a pilot habitat restoration project. With fantastic partners including Hydro One, Lanark County and the National Capital Commission, we are restoring 10 acres of native meadow habitat along roadsides and rights of way. Four sites are prepared, and are ready for seeding with native plants in the spring of 2019.

It’s a small start, but we have a vision to expand habitat along linear migratory networks through southern Ontario and beyond.

We Must Act Now

monarch-on-child-hand

One thing is clear: the Monarch across North America is in  a precarious situation, and it will take all hands on deck to prevent its further decline.

If we are to succeed, it will be due to hard work and commitments by all levels of government, industry partners, the agricultural community and private citizens.  That is the best way to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to witness the spectacle of Monarch migration and overwintering.

It can’t wait anymore.

Stay tuned for further updates on the status of Monarch Butterfly and CWF’s Monarch Habitat Restoration Project.

Over 83,000 CWF Supporters Have Joined With Half a Million Canadians Who Want Neonics Gone

Concerned citizens are calling for an immediate ban on bee-killing neonic pesticides in Canada.

Ottawa concluded consultations on the latest neonic risk assessments on Tuesday, November 13, 2018.

Experts Agree

On this issue, the Canadian Wildlife Federation joined with 13 conservation, environmental health and advocacy groups, including the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association. Together we called on the federal government to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in Canada without further delay.

While the groups support the federal government’s proposed ban on neonics, they urge the government to accelerate the timeline to protect pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial species. An urgent ban is needed to prevent endangerment of the environment.

Since 2013, more than 460,000 people in Canada have participated in various campaigns to ban neonics, signing petitions and writing letters to the federal government in support of a timely ban. Over the last few months, CWF supporters added over 83,000 to this growing list of concerned citizens by supporting our five-step plan to not just ban neonics, but also work with farmers and policy-makers and help the environment recover from the devastating effects of these pesticides.

The Risks are Unacceptable

This week, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) concluded public consultations on proposals to phase out the neonics clothianidin and thiamethoxam in three to five years. In 2016, the PMRA proposed to phase out a third neonic, imidacloprid — a decision that has yet to be finalized. The results? The risks from most uses of neonics are unacceptable.

The proposed slow-motion phase-out of the main neonics would allow their use to continue until 2023 or beyond, even though environmental risks have been shown to be unacceptable. This unjustifiable delay will lead to further widespread and preventable ecological damage and is contrary to the pesticides law Health Canada is bound to uphold.

In contrast, the European Union’s new comprehensive ban will enter into effect in December 2018, just seven months after member states approved regulations. In France, a full ban on neonics has been in place since September 1, 2018.

“The science on neonicotinoids is in. Banning neonicotinoids is the only option if we are to avoid long-lasting serious impacts on the very ecosystems that support farming in Canada. ”
Carolyn Callaghan, Canadian Wildlife Federation

CWF’s five step plan includes:

  • Calling for a ban on the use of neonics
  • Recovering affected species
  • Encouraging research and development of safer pest control technologies
  • Supporting farmers in transitioning to alternatives
  • Advocating for reform to how government protects our food supply

For more information, visit BanWithAPlan.org

 

Going, going….gone: Which animals are on the brink and how can we save them?

There are 700 species at risk of extinction. Which animals are on the brink and how can we save them?

Canada has such a rich biodiversity that it can be surprising to hear that more than 700 species are at risk of extinction. But sadly it’s true. While the future may seem bleak for these species, it doesn’t mean things can’t change for the better. Just look, for instance, at the Peregrine Falcon, White-top Aster, Buffalograss and the Shorthead Sculpin — their situations have all improved!

Let’s see if we can turn things around for these species below that are currently assessed as Endangered by Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a committee that provides advice to government on the status of wildlife species at risk of extinction.

Leatherback Sea Turtle

leatherback sea turtle
There are many threats facing this species including a high predation rate on hatchlings, egg poachers, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with boats and marine pollution.

(Atlantic population + Pacific population)
Endangered

Leatherback Sea Turtles evolved around 100 million years ago — that’s right, they were around when dinosaurs were alive! They are named after their leathery shell which is different from the hard shells of other sea turtles. They can weigh as much as 900 kilograms, making them the largest living sea turtle. Their main prey is jellyfish. Instead of teeth they have cusps that they use to grab their prey. Their esophageal tract is lined with sharp spines that work to shred jellyfish into pieces. There are many threats facing this species including a high predation rate on hatchlings, egg poachers, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with boats and marine pollution.

Little Brown Myotis

little brown bat
It’s hard to believe that not long ago, this was the most common bat species in Canada. But since 2010, their population has declined by 94 per cent from Nova Scotia to Ontario.

Endangered

The Little Brown Myotis weighs between seven and nine grams, about the weight of eight standard paper clips! Females are slightly larger than males but otherwise they look the same. They can be found in all provinces and territories of Canada, although there are only occasional records for Nunavut. They do not usually migrate outside of Canada, but can travel up to 1,000 kilometres between their summer roosts and winter roosts.

It’s hard to believe that not long ago, this was the most common bat species in Canada. But since 2010, their population has declined by 94 per cent from Nova Scotia to Ontario. The cause — white-nose syndrome. This disease is caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans. It is believed to have originated from Europe and brought over by cave explorers. The fungus grows on their nose and other non-furred areas during their hibernation. This causes bats to wake more often than usual which rapidly uses up their fat reserves. Along with the impact this fungus has had on two other bat species, this is considered by some scientists to be the most rapid decline of mammals ever recorded. Other threats faced by the Little Brown Myotis include habitat loss and pesticides.

Burrowing Owl

burrowing owl profile
As of 2015, the Canadian population is estimated at about 270 individuals.

Endangered

Burrowing Owls are smaller than a pigeon, standing about 20 centimetres in height and weighing between 125 and 185 grams. The main Prairie population breeds in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but they can also be found in very low numbers in southwestern Manitoba. There is also a small reintroduced population in southcentral British Columbia. They have a preference for dry short-grass prairie and use abandoned burrows of ground-dwelling mammals including prairie dogs and ground squirrels for nesting, resting and storing food.

Over the past 40 years, this species faced a significant decrease in density. While the conversion of grassland to cropland may have been a significant factor for their past decline, their current threats include loss of prey, severe weather and impacts from the expansion of renewable energy. As of 2015, the Canadian population is estimated at about 270 individuals.

Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee

Endangered

Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebees measure 12 to 18 millimetres in length. They have been found in every province and territory in Canada, except for Nunavut. However, since 1991, they have only been recorded in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Their habitats include mixed farmlands, open meadows, urban areas and the boreal forest. An interesting fact about this bumble bee is that they don’t have worker bees. Mated females instead find a host nest and after killing the host queen, she lays her eggs which are then looked after by the host worker bees. The main threat to this bumble bee is the loss of host bumble bee populations including the Rusty-patched Bumble bee, Yellow-banded Bumble Bee and the Western Bumble Bee; species that are also listed as at-risk by COSEWIC.

North Atlantic Right Whale

North Atlantic right whale
Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the most common causes of death for these animals and now less than 450 individuals remain in the world.

Endangered

The North Atlantic Right Whale grows to about 16 metres in length, with females measuring about one metre longer than males, and they can weigh up to 63,500 kilograms. That’s twice the weight of a transport truck and the same length as one! They come to Atlantic Canada to feed on zooplankton.

In 2017, 12 North Atlantic Right Whales died in Canadian waters representing what is likely the highest mortality event for this species since commercial whaling was banned in 1937. Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are the most common causes of death for these animals and now less than 450 individuals remain in the world.

Monarch Butterfly

monarch butterfly
The main threats facing this species in Canada include the use of herbicides and the loss of milkweeds.

Endangered

I think most of us are familiar with the Monarch Butterfly – that iconic orange and black butterfly. They are found in all ten provinces and the Northwest Territories. Eastern Monarchs overwinter in the mountains of Central Mexico whereas western Monarchs overwinter in coastal California. Milkweeds are extremely important as it is the only food plant for Monarch caterpillars. The chemicals found in milkweeds make the caterpillars and adults unpleasant tasting to many birds. The main threats facing this species in Canada include the use of herbicides and the loss of milkweeds.

Let’s change the seemingly bleak future for these, and all species at risk. It’s happened before, let’s do it again!

The Secret Lives of Bees and Wasps

I think it’s safe to say that when most of us hear about bees or wasps we think of honey, trying not to get stung or maybe even pollination.

But there is a diverse and remarkable world that awaits to be discovered when it comes to this very large group of insects.

Solitary Species

@ Sarah Coulber | CWF

For instance, did you know that Canada has hundreds of species of bees and wasps? Most are secretive in nature and are so docile that they are easy to live alongside as neighbours. They tend to live solitary lives, flying off after laying eggs in prepared cells and provisioning each with some food. Typically, solitary bees leave a mixture of pollen and nectar. Solitary wasps, however, leave immobilized prey including many pest species. This has prompted research into how the agricultural industry can support these beneficial allies.

Solitary bees and wasps make their nests in different places, from the ground to hollow stems of plants to cavities in wood made by other insects.

Social as a Bee

As for our social species that live in a colony that works together, the most common bee people think of are Honey Bees. They are best known for the honey we eat but they are not native and are bred, unlike our wild native species, many of which are more efficient pollinators!

@ Viv LynchBumblebees are also social although they have smaller colonies than Honey Bees. But did you know that bumblebees are a group of bees rather than one species? Bumblebees have lots of hairs. This helps them pollinate plants in colder weather. They are often the only bees you’ll see on cool mornings. They are also some of the insects able to buzz-pollinate certain plants like tomatoes. This involves vibrating their bodies powerfully enough to cause the flowers of some species to release its pollen.

Bee Diverse

Our bees and wasps come in all sorts of sizes and colours. This can lead to confusion if you don’t see the insect up close and don’t know what to look for. Some bees with their blue-green colouring and small size can be mistaken for flies. Hover flies are probably mistaken the most often for a bee or wasp. This group of flies, also known as Syrphid or Flower Flies, are also one of our most important pollinators in this northern climate.

Learn more about Canada’s pollinators.