12 ways Butterflyway Rangers are bringing pollinators back across Canada

By Jode Roberts, Pollinator project lead
General Currie Elementary School pollinator patch

Teacher Ms. Kim Fedoruk leads a group of students planting a Butterflyway pollinator patch at Richmond's General Currie Elementary School.

This spring, the David Suzuki Foundation recruited more than 200 residents in six cities to become Butterflyway Rangers. These keen volunteers are now leading efforts to grow butterfly-friendly corridors through their neighbourhoods as part of the Butterflyway Project. Their aim is to establish at least a dozen pollinator-friendly patches — neighbourhood Butterflyways — in each city.

By adding habitat to parks, schools, boulevards and yards, the Rangers are helping to support the hundreds of species of wild bee and butterfly that pollinate fruits and flowers in our communities.

Though we are only a couple of months into the Butterflyway season, keen Rangers have already made lots of local butterfly-fuelled magic happen.

In celebration of Pollinator Week, below are 12 highlights from the first couple of months of this year’s Butterflyway Project.

A group of Butterflyway Ranger volunteers dressed as butterflies

1. Canoe gardens coming to Guildwood

The Rangers in Scarborough’s Guildwood neighbourhood hit the ground running this spring, hosting a successful plant sale and bringing a team of two dozen butterfly and bee-costumed Rangers and friends for a neighbourhood parade. The Guildwood troop is planning a big community planting day during Pollinator Week. Rangers will be planting wildflower-filled canoe gardens along a pathway between two elementary schools and at two nearby churches on June 24!

Two Butterflyway Ranger volunteers at a plant sale in Deep Cove, B.C.

2. Butterfly block party In North Vancouver

Ranger Stephen Deedes-Vincke and his wife Sally Hocking gathered together neighbours and the local garden club in their Deep Cove neighbourhood to transform a neglected strip of land in their laneway to a block-long pollinator patch. This summer, they’ll be hosting a butterflyway block party to celebrate!

Monarch butterfly

3. The Queensdale pollinator pathway

After being trained as a Butterflyway Ranger, Anne Purvis wanted to get her neighbours on Queensdale Avenue involved. She reached out to others on her east-end Toronto street, asking if they would be willing to add native plants to their gardens. She offered to organize a bulk order from a local native plant nursery, plus plants from her own garden. Seven neighbours have added butterfly gardens to their yards, and Anne is already aiming to expand by getting more neighbours on board and planting city-owned boulevards.

Two monarch butterflies sitting on Black Eyed Susan Flowers - photo by Bob McCouch on Flickr

4. Bringing butterflies to Swan Lake Village

After six residents of the Swan Lake Village seniors complex in Markham joined the Butterflyway Project this spring, they identified a handful of existing gardens that could use a butterfly-friendly upgrade. After a trip to a nearby native plant nursery, this week they will plant native wildflowers like black-eyed Susans and bee balm — just in time for the arrival of monarch butterflies!

Photo credit: Bob McCouch on Flickr
Montreal butterflyway

5. Butterfly effect growing in Quebec

Forty teachers and forty residents in Quebec have joined our team of Butterflyway Rangers (known as Patrouille Papillon) this Spring. We launched the season by hosting a screening of Flight of the Butterflies and distributing more than a thousand milkweed plants during the Great Gardening Weekend at Montreal’s Jardin Botanique.

A Butterflyway Ranger next to a pollinator garden that's been planted

6. Schoolyards blooming in Richmond

Several Rangers from Richmond, B.C., have successfully encouraged schools to plant butterfly-friendly gardens. Teacher Kim Fedoruk became a Ranger this spring and has already planted two butterfly gardens at General Currie Elementary School. Ranger Anne-Marie Fenn from Daniel Woodward Elementary was so inspired by the Butterflyway Project that she had applied for funding to grow a pollinator patch before even applying to be a Ranger! Ranger Neill McCallum has enlisted a half dozen of his students at A.R. MacNeill Secondary to help triple the size of an existing pollinator garden.

Blueridge Good Neighour Day parade

7. Butterflyway migrates to Blueridge

When Ranger Joanne Bengert joined the Butterflyway Project in Richmond last year, she began plotting a plan to bring the project home to her neighbourhood of Blueridge in the District of North Vancouver. This spring, Rangers were recruited in North Vancouver and the municipal government officially joined as a project partner. Joanne and the Rangers celebrated by donning butterfly wings for the Blueridge Good Neighbour Parade.  

Pollinator patch planting at Leslieville Junior Public School

8. Leslieville bee-friendly tree planters

Ranger Maxine Wiber in Leslieville began her second year of Butterflyway projects this spring, establishing pollinator patches in several tree planters along Queen Street East, starting with the planter in front of her ice cream shop, Ed’s Real Scoop. Local storeowners have offered to help water through the summer heat. She has grand plans of extending the project, in partnership with the local businesses association.

An image of 9 Butterflyway volunteers from our Victoria project

9. Victoria Butterflyway gardens bloom

Since becoming a Butterflyway Ranger in Victoria last year, Starr Munro has set up an ambitious program at her children’s school. Each class now has a garden bed that they are responsible for taking care of. She is in the process of creating a teacher resource kit with lesson plans and resources for protecting pollinator habitats on school grounds.

Gerry in his garden with Butterflyway Ranger volunteers

10. Rangers help Gerry’s garden blossom

When North Vancouver residents Gerry and Molly lost their son to cancer, Gerry poured his energy into cleaning up a vacant lot between a local school and parking lot. This spring, our Butterflyway Rangers volunteered for a day of weeding and planting at the site, now known as “Gerry’s Garden.” While Rangers and city staff helped turn the garden into a pollinator paradise, now-98-year-old Gerry looked on appreciatively.

11. Fernwood butterflyway takes flight

Ranger Victoria Emberley received funding from the City of Victoria to create a network of pollinator homes and gardens throughout her Fernwood community. She’s combined homemade bee homes with educational pamphlets to support pollinator awareness in the community. This summer she’s hoping to engage more of the community to decorate and build her pollinator gardens!

A beautiful mural of a monarch on a wall

12. Laneway and park get Butterflyway makeover

Ranger Nick Sweetman also happens to be one of Toronto’s finest street artists, having painted multi-story murals of wild bees throughout the city in recent years. Butterflyway Rangers in Leslieville are teaming up with Nick and a dozen local artists to paint an entire laneway adjacent to Felstead Park with butterfly-inspired murals during Pollinator Week. The laneway murals will be inspired by the fanciful flight of a butterfly and will connect to two new pollinator-friendly patches in the park.

Over to you

Want to create a Butterflyway in your neighbourhood?

As the stories above have demonstrated, there are plenty of ways to bring nature home to your neighbourhood.

The simplest way to get started is to make your home yard, garden or balcony a haven for pollinators. Find out how to create your own wild bee sanctuary here.

If you’re interested in getting neighbours, businesses or city agencies together to create your own Butterflyway, check out the Butterflyway Project and read our Butterflyway Starter Guide to find out how to get started. Keep us posted by using the hashtag #Butterflyway on social media. Find out more by emailing us at contact@davidsuzuki.org.