Thursday, August 10, 2017

Monarch Awards 2017: Winners Announced!

Winners have just been announced. There's a profile article on the Monarch Awards web site as well as the media release. Congratulations to all the finalists, the Buzzin' Dozen, and all the entrants!

The 2017 Monarch Award winner is Amy Taylor!!
Amy, a 2016 finalist who lives on Edgemont Street North in Crown Point, is a herbalist and tea-reader who has an eclectic and broad knowledge of plants. An experienced gardener, Amy made some changes to her garden over the past year, removing some most of the aggressive non-natives (despite their herbalism usefulness) and ramping up the native plant content. Amy’s garden showcases the potential for blending unusual native plants into a traditional—and small—garden setting.
Amy's Garden.
One judge remarked on the overwhelming “interestingness” of the space. There’s a huge diversity of species to guarantee blooms right from April through November, along with personal whimsical decor, several amenities for wildlife (bird baths, bug bath, bee boxes, nesting spots), a shed made entirely of recycled materials, and a pergola with natural shade provided by hop vines that are harvested for beer making.

There is always a “mess” potential in gardens designed with ecosystem benefits in mind but Amy has cleverly and discretely sited the composters, brush piles, and all three water barrels. The front yard is completely planted and, although the needs of the plants have trumped the aesthetics somewhat, the effect is respectful of the streetscape and neighbours.

This year the judges chose to award four finalist prizes.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Creating a Pollinator Paradise: video

What's the buzz about pollination?
Learn why pollinators and native wildflowers are so important, why they have a problem, and find out what you can do about it!

Script, video, and audio by Saige Patti, Hamilton Naturalists' Club Summer Intern.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

How the McMaster Prairie Project is Influencing Bee Biodiversity

Another great piece by our summer intern, Saige Patti!

Native bumble bees pollinate using a unique method called "buzz pollination."

For fifty years, a 149 acre McMaster property sat on Lions Club road with a faded fence and invasive buckthorn so thick that you couldn’t see through it. Now, it’s flourishing with biodiversity.

The change began 2014, when the McMaster Biology department removed the buckthorn, conducted a controlled burn, and reseeded the property with 40 native species to create a tallgrass prairie. This is a type of Carolinian habitat with a stable community of grasses and wildflowers such as blazing star and bergamot. Carolinian prairies support a wide variety of wildlife, including bobolinks, deer, voles, and butterflies.

Sebastian Irazuzta is a 3rd year PhD student at McMaster looking at how bees recolonize native habitats. He is comparing changing bee populations between the McMaster prairie and a similar remnant prairie habitat, located on Hamilton Conservation Authority property on Jerseyville Road. Irazuzta says that most research that has been done on this topic has been done in a controlled laboratory setting with fewer species.

After surveying the McMaster property from 2014 to 2016, they’ve found close to 180 species of bees. “For all of Ontario we know that there are around 410 species. For this area on the Niagara escarpment, the only other sizeable research that has been done has been around Brock University… they found around 132 species.” Irazuzta tells us.

Bee specimens from Irazuzta's collection show that native bees vary a lot in size.
There is great value in biodiverse bee populations. This is because different bees have different strategies for collecting pollen. While some bees stick pollen to their abdomen, others stick it to the hairs on their legs. Some even eat the pollen and regurgitate it later. When a flower receives visits from different types of bees, they access pollen from different areas of the flower.

Laboratory research has shown that enhanced seed production is not only determined by frequency of visits, but by diversity of pollinators.

Certain pollinators are most efficient at pollinating certain flowers, because they use unique methods. For example, bumblebees use ‘buzz pollination’. They vibrate the flower so that pollen comes off more easily and sticks to the bee. High bee diversity means plants produce more high-quality seeds. This is important for crops since more seeds means more food production.
Bees are important to us, but loss of prairies is making it harder for bees to find a food source.
Our native bees have ancient relationships with Carolinian wildflowers. They contain nectar that our native bees have relied on for centuries.

Prairie habitats once covered 14% of Ontario, but they were the first habitat to be destroyed when settlers arrived. Grasses were easier to remove than forests, so prairies were set on fire to make way for crops. Tallgrass prairies quickly disappeared. “Now we’re down to less than 3% prairie habitat, but that number is actually deceiving” Irazuzta says. Most of the habitat is left in very small sections, often on road sides or railway side. “Once you drop below a critical size, it can’t sustain lot of species. Fragmentation is a huge issue for all types of habitats, but it really does affect prairies.”  These fragmented prairies lead to extirpation of species they once supported.