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Learning to Create Pollinator Habitat from Our Northern Neighbors

With A Flower Patch for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat Gardens for Native Pollinators in the Greater Toronto Area, Friends of the Earth Canada (FoE) has produced a booklet that is both informative and incredibly beautiful - an inspiration and a true pleasure to scroll through.

Written by Lorraine Johnson and Sheila Colla, with gorgeous illustrations by Ann Sanderson, the booklet was created by FoE in support of Toronto’s Pollinator Protection Strategy.

Why name the booklet after one particular native bee? "In 2012, the rusty-patched bumblebee had the unfortunate distinction of being the first native bee in Canada to be officially designated as endangered. One of the authors of this book, Sheila Colla, was the last person in Canada to identify this bee in the wild, in 2009, by the side of a road in Pinery Provincial Park. Sheila had spent every summer since 2005 searching for the rusty-patched bumblebee in places where they had previously been recorded. On that summer day in 2009, she had found none and was on her way out of the park when, from the passenger window of the car, she spotted the distinctive rusty patch of a lone specimen. This sighting was the last known for Canada."

While the exact causes of this bee’s rapid decline have yet to be confirmed, the most likely culprits will sound familiar to Pollinator Pathway supporters: "loss and fragmentation of habitat, including nesting and foraging opportunities; disease and competition from non-native honeybees and managed bumblebees in greenhouse and field crops; pesticides; and climate change."

"There is much that needs to be done to protect bees, but growing a flower patch is one action we can all take now to make a positive difference."

A Flower Patch for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee provides insight into these destructive forces along with tools to help counteract them: advice on planning your pollinator patch, selecting and combining native plants, plant profiles and pictures, and other ways to take action to "support and protect native bees by creating habitat where we live, work and gather as communities". As the authors say, "There is much that needs to be done to protect bees, but growing a flower patch is one action we can all take now to make a positive difference."

Note: There are a few plants listed here that are aggressive spreaders -False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), for example - and one that is considered invasive in our area - Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) - so double check before planting. One good resource is the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group plant list, which includes both invasive and potentially invasive plants.

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