When the Butterflyway Project began in 2017, the aim was simple: to inspire people to plant native wildflowers throughout their communities. Insect populations have declined dramatically over the past four decades, and scientists have highlighted that our yards and neighbourhoods are landscapes of great opportunity. They can provide food and shelter for local bees and butterflies while building community and beautifying our communities, one wildflower at a time.
Volunteer Butterflyway Rangers were recruited in five communities and offered a weekend of in-person training. Rangers were then sent back to their neighbourhoods with a modest goal: find creative ways to establish at least a dozen new plantings filled with native wildflowers. In other words, create a local Butterflyway. The project grew each year, expanding to nine communities by 2019.
Then, a pandemic happened.
Instead of grinding to a halt amid the uncertainty of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, interest in the project exploded. Hundreds of new Rangers joined in 2020. Bolstered by an unprecedented interest in home gardening, the Rangers found clever ways to connect with friends and neighbours, distributing plants and promoting butterfly-friendly gardening. At the end of a busy 2021, there were 15 official Butterflyways.
Instead of grinding to a halt amid the uncertainty of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, interest in the project exploded.
Then, the pandemic continued.
While the first pandemic year saw the project blossom, in 2021 it exploded (in a good way). More than 1,000 Rangers were recruited in hundreds of communities. They received online training in pollinator conservation and community organizing. They began reaching out to neighbours and local groups to encourage planting butterfly-friendly native flora.
Plantings began appearing in yards and gardens and balconies and parks and schoolyards and roadsides and medians. At libraries, community centres, churches, corporate grounds, cafés and town halls. On private property and public property. In all, more than 35,000 wildflowers were planted in over 5,000 pollinator patches. New Butterflyways — with at least a dozen new wildflower gardens — were established in 60 communities, from West Vancouver, B.C. to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Brantford, Ontario, to Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
While the conservation impact of these plantings is tangible, perhaps the most exciting part of the Butterflyway Project has been the social impact, enthusiasm that spread from Rangers to their recruits and to others in their community. More than 100 media outlets ran stories about these hometown heroes bringing nature home to their communities despite these uncertain times. Our crew of keen Butterflyway Rangers was able to bring friends and neighbours together to make their communities beautiful and butterfly-filled. It’s been inspiring.
Although I wish we could include stories from all the Butterflyway Ranger crews, below are a few highlights. To dig a bit deeper, and see if there were plantings near you, check out the 2021 Butterflyway Project map. It’s a work in progress, as we continue to add fall plantings.
A few 2021 Ranger highlights:
- A keen team of Rangers in Brantford, Ontario, mapped over 170 pollinator patches as part of the Brantford and Surrounding Area Butterflyway.
- Ranger Charlene from First South, Nova Scotia, teamed up with her granddaughter to distribute dozens of native plants and seed kits, resulting in over 60 plantings as part of the Lunenburg County Butterflyway.
- Ranger Sandi encouraged 27 neighbours from her street to plant native wildflowers, creating the Astra Road Butterflyway in Comox, B.C.
- Rangers Carla and Gail in Regina, Saskatchewan, led efforts to plant thousands of wildflowers in yards, schools and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum as part of the Regina Butterflyway.
- Rangers Clara and Jordan-Anne are high school students from Perth and Almonte, Ontario, who teamed up to create a dozen new pollinator patches in each of their communities and are aiming to grow their Lanark Butterflyway throughout the county.
- Rangers in four Winnipeg neighbourhoods — Corydon Osborne, Island Lakes, Norwood Flats and Southland Park — created Butterflyways this summer.
- After five years, Rangers have planted a fleet of wildflower-filled canoe planters from Powell River, B.C., to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to Chester’s Basin, Nova Scotia.
While we train Butterflyway Rangers to be native plant and gardening ambassadors in their communities, the training only takes the project so far. The success of the Butterflyway this year truly demonstrates what people with enthusiasm and passion for the planet can do when they come together.
The Butterflyway Project is proudly supported by national partners Nature’s Way and Cascades. For more information about the Butterflyway Project, visit www.davidsuzuki.org/butterflyway.
New Butterflyways created in 2021
Below is a list of new Butterflyways — communities with at least a dozen new pollinator plantings — from 2021. Visit the online Butterflyway map to see more of the Ranger-led projects and plantings.
- Ajax and Pickering Butterflyway, Ajax/Pickering ON
- Allison Butterflyway, Allison NB
- Antigonish Butterflyway, Antigonish NS
- Bracebridge Butterflyway, Bracebridge ON
- Bramalea Butterflyway, Brampton ON
- Heart Lake Butterflyway, Brampton ON
- Brantford and Surrounding Area Butterflyway, Brantford ON
- Caledon Butterflyway, Caledon ON
- Chatham-Kent Butterflyway, Chatham-Kent ON
- Pebble Beach Butterflyway, Cobourg ON
- Astra Road Butterflyway, Comox BC
- Dunnottar Butterflyway, Dunnottar MB
- Elora Butterflyway, Elora ON
- Kawartha Lakes Butterflyway, Fenelon Falls ON
- Hamilton Butterflyway, Hamilton/Ancaster ON
- Willows Springs Butterflyway, Kaministiquia ON
- Kaslo-Kootenay Lake Butterflyway, Kaslo BC
- Kettleby – King Township Butterflyway, Kettleby ON
- Rideau Heights Butterflyway, Kingston ON
- Lunenburg County Butterflyway, Lunenburg NS
- Maple Ridge Butterflyway, Maple Ridge BC
- Notre-dame-de-Grâce Butterflyway, Montreal QC
- Morin Heights Butterflyway, Morin Heights QC
- Shannon Creek Butterflyway, Oakville ON
- North Nepean Butterflyway, Ottawa ON
- Ottawa West Butterflyway, Ottawa ON
- Lanark County Butterflyway, Perth and Almonte ON
- Renfrew County Butterflyway, Petawawa ON
- Port Credit Butterflyway, Port Credit ON
- Powell River Butterflyway, Powell River BC
- Regina Butterflyway, Regina SK
- Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson Butterflyway, Ste-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson QC
- Saint-Lazare Butterflyway, Saint-Lazare QC
- Danforth Gardens Pollinator Pathway, Scarborough ON
- Rouge Butterflyway, Scarborough ON
- Schreiber Butterflyway, Schreiber ON
- Sioux Narrows Butterflyway, Sioux Narrows ON
- Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) Butterflyway, South Dundas ON
- Southampton Butterflyway, Southampton ON
- Northern Peninsula Butterflyway, St. Anthony NL
- The Green Herons – Niagara Butterflyway, St. Catharines ON
- Stratford Butterflyway, Stratford ON
- Sudbury Butterflyway, Sudbury ON
- Town of Blue Mountains and Meaford Butterflyway, Thornbury ON
- Thunder Bay Butterflyway, Thunder Bay ON
- Woodington Avenue Butterflyway, Toronto ON
- Balaclava Butterflyway, Vancouver BC
- Kitchener Street Butterflyway, Vancouver BC
- Champlain Township Public Library Butterflyway, VanKleek Hill ON
- Vaudreuil-Dorion Butterflyway, Vaudreuil-Dorion QC
- Eastern Shore Butterflyway, West Chezzetcook NS
- Ambleside Butterflyway, West Vancouver BC
- Cedardale Butterflyway, West Vancouver BC
- Westport Butterflyway, Westport ON
- Weymouth Butterflyway, Weymouth NS
- Island Lakes Butterflyway, Winnipeg MB
- Norwood Flats Butterflyway, Winnipeg MB
- Corydon Osborne Greenway Butterflyway, Winnipeg MB
- Southland Park Butterflyway, Winnipeg MB