There are Butterfly Rangers in our area
Become part of the Butterfly Cobourg community
Article by Bill Hornbostel/images supplied
Avid gardener Samantha Conroy and her daughter Mikayla have joined the Butterflyway Project, and are spreading the word about planting to help butterflies. “I’ve been a long-time gardener. And this year, with the pandemic and everything, we’re looking for ways to raise our spirits,” says Samantha.
“We’re trying to help the butterflies because they’re declining and we don’t want them to, and we want to try to help all the pollinators,” says Mikayla. “So, we’re planting wildflowers and host plants so that the butterflies don’t die.”
Samantha talks about the importance of pollinator species, which include butterflies. “One in three bites of food that we take needs pollinators for the fruit to develop,” she states. “We depend on them, and all of them are declining significantly.”
“Some of the big impacts on the pollinators are the loss of habitat when we’re clearing out areas for development,” Samantha says. “We can make little differences in our gardens that would make a big difference for their lives and improving the populations.”
Samantha describes some of the changes to gardens that would help. “A lot of gardens are non-native plants, and we have these beautiful hydrangeas and peonies and they’re lovely, but they’re not the best plants for the pollinators,” she says. “There’s a lot of beautiful native plants in Ontario that we can that we can plant, we can enjoy, and they can also benefit us and the pollinators.”
And as some butterfly species overwinter in Canada, Mikayla adds, “Some people rake up their leaves, but the butterflies are in there as a place to live in the fall. So, you should leave the leaves on the ground until later.”
A number of butterfly species live in or migrate to Canada. “The Monarchs are the one that everyone’s aware of,” says Samantha, “but there’s lots of different butterflies in our area that we are planting specific host plants for them where they lay their butterfly eggs; some use grasses, some use other specific native plants.” Those plants include milkweed, black-eyed susans, bee balm, licorice mint, and Joe Pye weed.
The Butterflyway Project was started in 2017 by the David Suzuki Foundation, which connected residents of five cities to establish local “Butterflyways” by planting at least a dozen pollinator patches in each neighbourhood or community. Since then, it has spread to over 100 communities.
“It’s a volunteer-run project, so everyone across the country does different things and gives different ideas,” says Samantha. “We started with just said door-to-door awareness campaign in our neighborhoods, we hand out flyers with information.”
“People that are directly registered with the David Suzuki Foundation, they call them Butterfly Rangers,” adds Samantha. “There’s about six of us in in our little area, and they link you also with people around you in the community.”
The David Suzuki Foundation also provides training to Rangers from Foundation staff and national experts through monthly webinars.
Samantha and Mikayla created Facebook and Instagram pages for their own project, Butterflyway Cobourg, went door-to-door to spread the word, and recently got a table at the Cobourg Farmer’s Market. “We had eighty plants that we brought in,” Samantha says. “We handed out plants to people to help raise awareness for planting for pollinators. We also handed out a lot of milkweed seed that was donated to us.”
Samantha is also contacting businesses and the Town of Cobourg to get involved in the Butterflyway Project. “We’ve connected with Emily Chorley at Parks and Rec, and she’s walked us through the steps of know how to request additional use of town space to plant pollinator gardens,” says Samantha. Next stop: Cobourg Council.
For more information on the Butterflyway Project, you may visit the webpage davidsuzuki.org/take-action/act-locally/butterflyway.