Four purple flowers (asters) with a bumble bee sitting on one

Pollinator Profiles: Creating a Pollinator-Friendly World 

If you have ever seen The Bee Movie, you know how important pollinators are to the environment. There are over a thousand pollinator species in Canada, and this week we want to recognize their work and importance to our planet and our lives.

June 19th-25th is recognized as National Pollinator Week, “an annual event celebrated internationally in support of pollinator health” (Pollinator Partnership). Because of this, I wanted to highlight some of our top pollinators, and what you can do to protect these valuable, and vulnerable species. 


Honeybees, bumble bees, you name it, we need them. Bees are critical for pollination around Canada and Ontario both ecologically and economically. Around 70% of pollination services come from bees, and they are the number one source of pollination in Ontario greenhouses, which turns into roughly $502 million dollars for Ontario’s economy 

Not only are bees providing us with produce and healthy plants, but they are providing job opportunities as well. In Ontario, there are 3,000 registered beekeepers responsible for over 10,000 honeybee colonies.

Bees are so good at their job due to their fuzzy design; the small hairs on their bodies allow pollen to be picked up and transferred to all the plants they visit in their busy schedule. Here’s a few ways to help our bee populations: 

  • Bees like the colours blue and purple – plant native flowers of that colour near each other in your garden. 
  • Build a bee bath – fill a bowl with large rocks and shallow water for bees to rest and hydrate. 
  • Move your mulch – some bees nest underground, be sure to leave some soil space clear of mulch so they can burrow and nest. 
Honeybee from National Geographic

Silvery blues, swallowtails, or the iconic monarch are all key pollinators in Ontario and desperately need our help. Butterflies are an essential part of cross pollination (sharing pollen from one plant to another) because of their nectar-gathering methods. Their feet and their proboscis (straw-like tongue that drinks nectar) allow them to have a higher chance of transferring pollen during their feeding sessions. Here are a few ways to support our local butterfly populations: 

  • Keep it bright – butterflies are attracted to bright coloured flowers, planting white, orange, or yellow flowers in your yard will definitely get their attention. 
  • Monarchs and milkweed – this native plant is essential for monarch reproduction, planting them in your garden will provide a safe place for Monarch populations to flourish. You can purchase new plants or better yet, take seed pods from existing plants and spread them throughout your yard!
Monarch butterfly resting on flowers
Monarch Butterfly from Sydney Daniels

Most of us know that milkweed is an important plant for Monarch butterflies, but most don’t know the reason behind this unique relationship. One of the Monarch’s most striking features is its colour. Even as caterpillars, Monarch’s always have a bright yellow or orange colour has a defense mechanism. In nature, bright colours often reflect toxicity, which is what Monarch’s use to defend themselves against predators. However, the only way this colour and toxin in their bodies can appear is because of milkweed. 

Mother Monarchs will lay their eggs on milkweed plants to provide their caterpillars with the exact food that will ward-off predators. The caterpillars eat through the milkweed leaves and become toxic to anything that tries to eat them. After they’ve eaten as much as they physically can, they begin metamorphizing, meaning they curl up in their chrysalis until they are ready to blossom into a full butterfly.  

Last fun fact about Monarchs, they are migratory animals who travel all the way to part of Mexico during the winter. Due to this yearly migration, a Monarch’s lifespan is actually dependent on what time in the year it was born. If it was born earlier in the spring or summer, they will only live for a few weeks, whereas Monarch’s born closer to the fall will live for a few months to make their trip down south.  

There are more than 300 species of hummingbirds in the world, however they are all found in the Western hemisphere. Like butterflies, they are keen on drinking nectar from any flowers they visit. While they are not the top pollinators in the game, we still greatly appreciate their work. When they reach for nectar with their long beaks, their bodies collect pollen and transfer that from flower to flower.

Species like the Ruby-throated hummingbird are very common in Ontario, in fact it is only found in Eastern Canada. Even though their populations are at a steady level currently, there are still ways we can support them in our urban environments, such as: 

  • All-things Ruby – hummingbirds are attracted to the colour red, plant native red flowers in your garden with deep pockets for nectar 
  • Sugar kick – hummingbirds use extreme amounts of energy to fly and hover at the mouths of flowers, so supplying hummingbirds with a sugar water feeder can help give them an extra boost of energy  
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird from the Audubon Society

The Runners-Up

Clearwing hummingbird moth
Clearwing Humingbird Moth from iNaturalist

Moths, flies, and beetles:

These critters are lesser-known pollinators since they mimic the key players. Moths are very similar to hummingbirds in their pollination process, same goes for wasps and their similarity to bees. Beetles on the other hand, eat pollen. They are great pollinators since not only are they transferring pollen when they encounter different plants, but they also recycle those nutrients from pollen once it’s gone through their system.

The best way to support these pollinators is to avoid pesticide and insecticide use around your yard, as well as to provide them with ample amounts of native plant species they can feast on. 


While classic songbirds are not top pollinators, they make up a large percentage of the wildlife in the region, so they still play a significant role in the pollination process. Because they are not the most efficient pollinators, there are a few accommodations that will help them achieve pollinator status;

  • Plant native flowers that are brightly coloured, odorless, and open during the daytime when birds are most active. 
  • Make sure the flowers you plant have large tube, cup, or funnel-like petals that make it easy for bird’s beaks to get into. 
  • Lastly, to increase the chance of cross-pollination, ensure your plants are prolific in nectar to attract nearby birds.
Downy woodpecker and red breasted nuthatch feeding from bird feeder
Downy Woodpecker & Red-Breasted Nuthatch from Sydney Daniels
Little brown bat
Little Brown Bat from The Smithsonian Magazine


Hands-down the most unique of the pollinator species, bats are great pollinators and seed dispersers. The most common bat species found in our region and Little and Big Brown Bats. Little Brown Bats are considered endangered in Canada, so we need to take extra care of our local winged mammals. 

Little Brown Bats are the victims of an invasive bacteria called White Nose Syndrome. Essentially, a white fungus grows on the bats skin while they are hibernating and leads to dehydration, starvation, and often death. White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have an 80-100% mortality rate for bat colonies, so here’s what we can do to protect them;

  • Turn off excess lights to avoid light pollution and monitor bats in your area.
  • Provide shelter for them by building a bat box. 
  • Learn about the symptoms of White Nose Syndrome and report any sightings of sick bats.

To learn more, visit the resources linked in the blog or in this list below. Happy Pollinator Week!

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