KCHC teams up with Suzuki Foundation to connect residents, pollinators

A tiger swallowtail enjoying the lilacs on this Butterflyway. Submitted photo.

Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC) is challenging you to create a Butterflyway this summer.  

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Wild pollinators such as butterflies and bees are crucial to human survival. Climate change, development and widespread pesticide use are compromising their habitat and food sources. The Butterflyway Project aims to help people step up efforts to help pollinators find food and shelter.”

The Butterflyway Project started in 2017 in five Canadian cities. The Foundation recruited volunteer “Butterflyway Rangers” whose mission was to plant native wildflowers in yards, schoolyards, streets, and parks to support bees and butterflies. The goal was to establish local “Butterflyways” by planting at least a dozen pollinator patches in each neighbourhood or community.

Now KCHC is hoping the project will reconnect our isolated community in a way that is both fun and COVID-19 safe. 

Stephanie Wheeler wears two hats for this project: she is a Community Development Worker for the  Community Health Team at KCHC, and she is also a Butterflyway Ranger. 

Wheeler says, “Part of my job is to organize free special events in the community, so how do you do that during COVID? Organize a collective initiative that folks can do individually and COVID-safe.” 

Stephanie and JoAnna working on their patch of wildflowers. Photo submitted.

The Butterflyway Project caught her attention because it was a collective COVID-safe activity, Wheeler says, noting, “During COVID, the community has become disconnected and people are identifying increased anxiety, depression, and isolation. My hope is to help people reconnect and build connections. Community cohesion is important to the health of a community, neighbours caring for their neighbour and the environment they live in.” 

“I loved the idea,” of promoting this project in Kingston she says.  It met many of her goals. For example she explained, “my whole property is covered with wildflowers, so if people want to add oxeye daisy to their garden, I can dig them up and bring them one.”

And that also serves as a way also for people to connect with somebody working in the community. 

“I’ve met some really cool people who have wanted one or two plants. The other day, I took someone some plants and they showed me the entire garden. You know, it’s only fleabane and oxeye daisies, but it’s a connection they might not have had otherwise.”

Wheeler has made similar connections with seniors on other projects, like the United Way’s Senior Food Box program.  She jokes, “I actually really look forward to seeing them probably more than they do me… Well, maybe not.”

She has met some very interesting people and had a number of great conversations. “Each time I visit, they give me little pieces of their story. Isn’t that lovely?” she shares.

Another wild garden Butterflyway. Submitted photo.

Anyone of any age can participate, and can start small by adding native plants to your garden, or go big and grow a pollinators’ paradise. People with balconies or small areas may want to consider a planter to keep things buzzing. The options are limitless and the goal is to have fun and bring the community together through a shared activity. Create a sign for your pollinator patch identifying it as a Butterflyway and invite others to create their own as they admire your beautiful work. 

Wheeler adds that there are many ways to be involved, from small plantings to becoming Deputy Butterflyway Rangers. Her team has put together a native plant guide, and would be  happy to provide more information and guidance to anyone who is interested.  

Wheeler suggests the following ways for everyone can take part:

  • Create your own Butterflyway sign for your existing wildflower garden. Use rocks, a garden stake, or a piece of reclaimed board — Be creative!
  • Have a planter of wildflowers in your outdoor space to attract pollinators.
  • Add a wildflower to your existing garden.
  • Plant a wildflower garden in your yard.
  • Support a neighbour or friend who would like to plant one by sharing your perennial wildflowers with them.
  • Go for a walk and see how many of your neighbours have wildflower gardens that are Butterflyways. See how many wildflower species you can identify.
  • Send a picture of your Butterflyway to [email protected] to share with the David Suzuki Foundation, and help put Kingston on the national map of pollinator havens.
  • Share your location for a walking Butterflyway map.

For more information contact Stephanie Wheeler at the above email. She also recommends www.wildflowersofontario.ca and Grow me Instead – a guide for Southern Ontario, and she has made a booklet based on the recommendations of the Kingston Horticultural Society .

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!