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Thunder Bay Food Strategy
Safe Cycling Thunder Bay

The Buzz about Pollinators

What is pollination?

Pollination is the movement of pollen within a flower or from one flower to another by insects, animals, wind, or water. This process of fertilization is essential for plant reproduction and a healthy ecosystem.

Did you know...? One out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is made possible by pollinators.

What is a 'pollinator'?

bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, birds, bats, wind, water

When you mention pollinators, most people immediately think of honeybees, an introduced species that lives in managed hives. In addition to honeybees, there are also over 400 species of wild native bees in Ontario (and over 4000 bee species in North America!) that contribute significant work as pollinators. 

Bees are the most important insect pollinators, but other "beneficial insects" including wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and beetles are also pollinators. Birds and bats also contribute to pollination.

DId you know...? Over 80% of flowering plants, including fruits, nuts, oilseeds, and most vegetables, are dependent on pollination by insects or other animals.

Wind also acts as a pollinator. Most staple grains, including wheat, rice, oats, rye, sorghum, and corn are wind-pollinated.

What is all the buzz about?

Many pollinator populations are in decline due to different factors, including:

  • Loss of habitat
  • Loss of food sources (nectar & pollen)
  • Pesticides
  • Disease
  • Climate change

 How can we support pollinators?

  1. Start by recognizing pollinators as a vital component of urban and rural landscapes, both for their role in human food production and in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
  2. Plant pollinator friendly gardens! Pollinators need a variety of nectar and pollen-rich flowers available throughout their foraginging period.
  3. Create and help protect suitable undistrubed nesting sites close to pollinators' forage.
  4. Go organic! Pesticides are a significant threat to pollinator health and have been linked to widespread bee deaths. Help reduce the use of pesticides by planting organic seeds and plants and by practicing organic gardening and yard care techniques. Support healthy agriculural systems by buying organic food.


Planting for Pollinators

There are many easy things you can do to help support pollinators in your own yard. 

Establish an available food supply:

  • Plant a variety of flowering plants - different types of flowers with different colours attract a diversity of pollinators.
  • Plant native species - they have co-evolved with their pollinators. Avoid hybridized plants - many have no pollen or nectar, or are too difficult for pollinators to access.
  • Aim for three seasons of flowering to support pollinators that are active early and/or late in the year.
  • Plant flowers in clups or groupings. Pollinators are less attracted to single plants.
Make water accessible:
  • Provide a slow drip of shallow container filled with small pebbles or coarse sand that rises above the level of the water. A pond with a gently-sloped bank can also work.
Provide and protect shelter:
  • Many native bees live solitary lives in ground burrows. Leave bare, mulch-free ground in sunny, well-drained areas to help protect nesting sites.
  • Some native bees commonly nest in the pithy stems of plants like raspberries and blackberries. If you must remove the old canes to encourage fruiting, place the cut stems in vertical bundles close to the plants for at least one year.
  • Allow leaves and broken branches to remain in your yard or garden. They provide important overwintering sites for many beneficial insects.
Pollinator Friendly Species:

Early bloom                                     Mid-season bloom                                  Late bloom

Blueberry                                          Bee Balm                                                  Joe-Pye Weed
Currant                                              Black-eyed Susan                                   Goldenrod
Dandelion                                         Blanket Flower                                         New England Aster
Hazelnut                                            Coreopsis                                                 Obedient Plant
Evening Primrose                            Purple Coneflower  
Wild Columbine                               Raspberry
                                                            Swamp Milkweed              

For a printable version of this information, check out our Pollinator Fact Sheet.

Click here for a more extensive list of native & well-adapted pollinator-friendly plants.


Thunder Bay Beekeepers' Association

Are you thinking of keeping bees or do you want to connect with a local beekeeper? Contact the local branch or check out their Facebook page


Pollination Guelph 

An excellent source of information: facts, downloads, and more. Check out these great resources:

Two more excellent resources:


This project was made possible throuh the Walmart-Evergreen Green Grants program and with support from EarthCare Thunder Bay.

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