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Ontario's Pollinator Highways

Erin Minuskin / Unsplash
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Ontario is home to over 400 species of native bees and over 100 native butterflies. Collectively our bees and butterflies, along with hummingbirds and other insects, make up Ontario's pollinator population. Pollinators are critical species that help ecosystems grow by pollinating flowering plants, allowing them to bear fruit and seeds that support forests, meadows, wetlands, and the wildlife that call these ecosystems home. Further, our pollinators support the agricultural sector of Ontario. Pollinators are responsible for thriving ecosystems as well as putting food on our tables.

What's the problem?

Southern Ontario used to be filled with sprawling meadows and wetlands filled with natural habitat for our pollinators. Grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees that have co-evolved with Ontario's native pollinators have been lost to urban sprawl and industrial developments. As cities grew, pollinator habitat was lost to concrete buildings, crops, and roads. Landscapes changed from sprawling with diverse ecosystems made up of thousands of flowering plant life to manicured lawns and European style gardens that do not offer the nutrients needed for our native pollinators to survive.

Ruby-throated hummingbird on a cardinal flower | Joshua J. Cotten

A Solution: The Pollinator Highways

Earthroots has created a vision for pollinator habitat recovery in Ontario. We propose creating long, continuous habitat made up of grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees growing along six iconic routes connecting the Golden Horseshoe to Central Ontario across the Greenbelt. We want to see the underutilized roadsides of roadways across Ontario upgraded to provide habitat for species like Monarchs, hummingbirds, bumblebees, and a plethora of other pollinators. Imagine roadsides with gorgeous blooms of violet, red, orange, yellow, and white from spring to fall.

Finally, a highway we can all get behind.

The Pollinator Highways benefits more than just our bees and butterflies. It promotes eco-tourism by creating beautiful scenic rides through communities across Ontario, creates new green infrastructure to help with flooding and snow drifts, and increases crop yields for farmers by brining native pollinators closer to fields. Leveraging underutilized green spaces like roadsides allows us to bring nature to our developed landscapes.

A highly collaborative undertaking, we need the support of municipalities, road agencies, conservation authorities, the province and the federal government to make this dream a reality. Click the map below to see if your community is along the Pollinator Highways.

Want to join the effort? Contact us at pollinators@earthroots.org.

Take a tour of the Pollinator Highways

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