Pollinator Health Guide

This resource page has been created as part of the Squamish Valley Agricultural Plan’s implementation goal of stewarding natural resources and the environment through sustainable and regenerative agricultural management practices.

What is Pollination?
  • Pollination is the transfer of pollen between plants.
  • Pollen contains genetic material used for the reproduction of plants, much like the function of sperm and egg in animals.
  • The transfer of pollen from the male reproductive part (stamen) to the female (pistel) is essential for a plant to produce its fruit, vegetable or grain.
Why is Pollination Important?
  • Plants are stationary and rely entirely on other organisms or the wind to transfer their pollen for them.
  • Pollination is required for ⅔ of the crop varieties we eat. Without pollination, our global food system would collapse.
  • Flowering plants provide food and habitat for other species within an ecosystem. Protecting flowering plants can in turn protect the biodiversity of the entire food chain.
What Threatens Pollinators?
Habitat Loss

Industrial development and mass agriculture has destroyed many natural pollinator habitats. Even in the case of urban gardening, many green spaces are actively managed such that mowing, pruning, pesticide use and other human-caused disturbances limit the capacity for biodiverse pollinator ecosystems to thrive. Pollinators often have limited migratory range and thus are unlikely to be able to relocate if habitats are destroyed or fragmented.

Climate Change

The increasing intensity and occurrence of extreme weather events such as heat waves, floods, wildfires, rising sea levels and seasonal storms threatens pollinators who cannot adapt to the rapid onset of a changing climate.

Pesticide Use

Pesticides are a chemical treatments used in industrial agriculture and gardening to deter insects from crops. Once applied, most pesticides will spread and become present throughout the entire plant system, including its pollen. When pollinators interact with the toxic pollen it can be immediately fatal or compromise their immune system, thus making them susceptible to disease.

Neonicotinoids

Neonicotinoids are a class of commonly used pesticides found in garden depots and agricultural retailers. These pesticides are sprayed externally and enter the pollen, seeds, and fruits of plants, making them toxic to insects and mammals. Many gardeners unknowingly purchase plants treated with neonicotinoids and harm the pollinators in their garden. Ask your retailer about pesticide usage before purchasing.

Types of Pollinators
Bees

In the Pacific Northwest, 90% of the bees we encounter are solitary. This means they do not live in colonies and have a short life span averaging about one year. During this time, they are only active during late spring and summer months. As a result, solitary bees are specialized foragers who feed off of only a limited range of plant species. 

Bees collect pollen by “buzzing” which microscopically shakes the flower allowing pollen to grasp onto their fuzzy coats. Some species have additional pollen pockets on their hind legs. 

Most solitary bees nest underground with the remainder using debris, sticks and clay to build nests. This is why having a garden with a variety of compost and decomposing material is excellent for supporting pollinator habitats. 

Bees prefer bright white, yellow and blue flowers with mild odour and shallow landing platforms on the petals.

Common Species in the Sea to Sky: 

  • Honey Bee
  • Yellow Fronted Bumble Bee
  • Yellow faced Bumble Bee
  • Western Leafcutter
  • Modest Masked Bee

For an illustrated guide to Bee identification visit the Pacific Northwest Bee Atlas

Flies

Flies often mimic bees in size and colour but can be distinguished by having two wings rather than four. They also have sparsely haired smaller bodies.

Flies are important for pollinating plant species not desired by many bees. This includes plants such as carrots, strawberries and onions. 

Flies are the dominant pollinators found in alpine ecosystems. 

Flies prefer pale and dull flowers with shallow funnel-like petals.

Common Species Found in the Sea to Sky: 

  • Hoverfly
  • Bee Fly
  • Black Blow Fly
  • Common Green Bottle Fly
  • Deadhead Hover Fly
Wasps

Wasps are similar in function to flies in that their decreased hair content makes them poorer pollinators than bees.

Wasps are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and smaller insects. This diverse diet creates less reliance on pollen for energy requirements.

Wasps are territorial creatures. They often have special adaptations like stingers to keep predators and competition from interacting with their food and nests.

Common Species Found in the Sea to Sky:

  • European paper wasp
  • Sand Wasp
  • Bald-faced hornet
Butterflies and Wasps

Both butterflies and moths rely solely on nectar for energy during their adult phase. Their beautiful wings are attached to a fuzzy body making them excellent pollinators at full maturity.

Moths are often overlooked in pollinator ecosystems, likely due to their duller colouration and nocturnal behaviour, though are integral for night blooming plant pollination.

Common Species Found in the Sea to Sky:

  • Painted Lady
  • Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
  • Cabbage white (non-native)
  • European skipper (non-native)
  • Ceanothus Silkmoth
  • One-eyed Sphinx Moth
  • Bent-line carpet moth

For a comprehensive British Columbia butterfly and moth identification guide check out E-Fauna BC Lepidoptera

 

Birds and Bats

Just like their insect neighbours, birds and bats utilize nectar- rich plants for energy and act as pollinators by collecting pollen on their feathery or furry coats.

Plants that are pollinated by birds are long and tubular, a shape which is suitable for beaks. Birds are often attracted to scarlet, red, orange and white flowers.

For a guide to hummingbird feeding plants in British Columbia visit E-flora BC

Plants that are pollinated by bats are often night blooming plants with white colouration and rich fragrance to guide the bats towards their flower.

Common Species Found in the Sea to Sky:

  • Rufus Hummingbird
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Black Swift (rare)
  • Vaux Swift (rare)
  • Hoary Bat
  • Silver haired Bat
  • Big Brown Bat
  • Yuma Myotis
  • Californian Myotis
  • Long legged Myotis

For more information on Indigenous Pollinator Species visit Agriculture Canada Native Pollinators Guide and the Pacific Ranges Pollinator Guide

How to Plan your Garden to Support Pollinators
Plant indigenous species

Plants and their pollinators have coevolved to exist together. Help native pollinators by planting native plants.

For more information on native plants found in this area visit; Naturescape Native Plants Guide of BC, David Suzuki Foundation Western Canada Native Flowering Plants Guide, BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer.

Plant a diverse range of flowering plants

Flowers that will blossom at different times will attract a variety of pollinators. In Squamish, our bees are specialized foragers who feed off a limited variety of plants. By creating variety in your garden you can attract diverse ranges of pollinators.

Keep it messy

Yes, that's right- the majority of pollinators found in Squamish (solitary bees, flies, wasps) thrive in gardens with sticks, debris and dead leaves to help them build nests.

Allow for bare soil

Access to the earth allows for ground nesting pollinators to create their winter microhabitat. Typically these insects will select areas that receive morning sunlight.

Plant in Clusters

This allows the pollinators to efficiently transfer pollen without having to travel long distances.

Avoid using pesticides

As well, avoid purchasing plants treated with pesticides.

Create a pollinator hotel

Bundles of sticks or cardboard straws can be placed in your garden to aid pollinators in building nesting sites during spring and summer. For more information on building a Pollinator Hotel, visit David Suzuki Foundation Bee Home Page.

How to Avoid Pests in your Garden Without Using Pesticides
Biological
  • Add plants to your garden that attract insects that prey on harmful insects. Plant species in the carrot, aster, and mustard family all attract beneficial insects to your garden that can outcompete or prey on harmful insects. Check out this Planting Guide for a list of species.
  • Purchase Ladybugs to forage on small soft-bellied insects.
Mechanical
  • Use crushed eggshells around vegetation to deter slugs and caterpillars.
  • Create netting over your garden.
  • Use diluted natural soap sprays on small soft bodied insects.
Transforming Urban Landscapes into Small Scale Pollinator Conservation Zones

The Sea to Sky is a rapidly developing community. With this urbanization comes a loss of habitat for Indigenous pollinating species. Community members can effectively counteract these losses by transforming urban and residential landscapes into floral spaces with thriving biodiversity.

Urban areas generally contain many patches of unused land and amenities that are typically managed by regular mowing and are often of low value to biodiversity.

Due to the relatively small spatial ecology of pollinator species, creating abundant networks of small-scale conservation zones in otherwise grass covered, unused areas would have broad reaching impacts on local food security and native ecology.

These flower abundant and aesthetically interesting landscapes also benefit communities' use of space and encourage tourism.

For comprehensive information on creating a pollinator patch zone view the Pollinator Patch Guide courtesy of the work done by Emma Dunlop and Dr. Ellen Flournoy of Quest University Canada.

Additional Resources
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