The importance of  pollinators has become increasingly recognised, as have the alarming declines observed in some species. With over 140,000 species in Canada, over one fifth of these are insects, many of which play a vital role in pollination.  Butterflies, flies, moths, beetles and, most importantly bees, pollinate native plants and crops – globally, pollination by bumblebees alone is estimated at be worth several billion dollars per year!

However, their conservation has largely been overlooked due to their small size and difficulties with identification.  Several pollinating butterfly and bee species have recently been listed as species-at-risk in Canada. Wildlife Preservation Canada’s at-risk pollinator program aims to save these important insects from extinction.  Several initiatives are being implemented in collaboration with numerous partners in Canada, the US and overseas.

Ontario's Native Pollinators

bombusaffinis In 2012, Project leader Sheila Colla began a recovery program for the previously common rusty-patched bumblebee. Locating populations of this increasingly rare species is a priority for its recovery, as well as hands-on intervention and conservation management.  In addition, working with Karner Blue Ontario , a collaborative effort of numerous partners, we are working to bring the karner blue butterfly back to Canada. The karner blue butterfly was extirpated from its Canadian range but still persists in the US.  This charismatic species relies on lupines in oak savannah habitats.

In collaboration with York University, we are looking at habitat quality for native bumble bees across southern Ontario.  Parasite levels, habitat quality, pesticide use and bumble bee species diversity will be quantified to determine under what conditions our native bumble bees thrive.

The Ontario pollinator team also started work in 2014 to establish captive breeding colonies of yellow-banded bumble bees (B. terricola).  The offspring will be used to increase the population of yellow-banded bumble bees across its native range, and can be used to investigate the impact of several threats on this and related species, such as the rusty-patched bumble bee.

British Columbia and Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly

Checkerspot-B Led by Peter Karsten, his team at the Taylor Checkerspot Captive Rearing Facility on Denman Island initiated development of a captive rearing program to propagate this endangered butterfly. The goal is to augment wild populations in danger of extirpation and reintroduction into sites inhabited by Taylor’s checkerspot at this time.

Quebec and Yellow Banded Bumblebee

yellow banded Yann Gobeil of FaunENord and his team also worked to establish a captive breeding colony of yellow banded bumblebees (B.terricola) over several generations in order to validate that wild B. terricola queens can be successfully reared over the course of several generations and that they can produce large and viable offspring. It is hoped offspring will increase the population across its native range.

Bumblebee Watch

In collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Kerr at the University of Ottawa, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, BeeSpotter and the Montreal Insecbumblebeetarium, we are proud to have launched bumblebeewatch.org in 2014. This website allows citizen scientists to help us locate populations of declining species and track invasive species. Help us by joining in our bumblebee conservation efforts today: all you need is a camera and an internet connection to upload your best bumble bee photos to the website!

IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group

The IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group was created in 2011 with the aim of assessing the status of bumblebees globally. Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Project Leader Sheila Colla will coordinate the ranking of the North American species which will help future conservation efforts to support species most in decline.

What can you do? Plant a garden!

BB Poster
  • Pollinators are attracted to flowers by their colour and scent. Have plants blooming from spring to fall to ensure that the garden can supply nectar and pollen for a variety of pollinators. Bright colours, especially blue, yellow and violet are attractive to pollinators.
  • Pick plants that are native to your region, or at least to North America. They are better adapted and therefore more able to provide for a pollinator’s needs. Some examples: cardinal flower, honeysuckle, bee balm, zinnia, phlox, mint, fuchsia, sage, cosmos, english lavender, nasturtium, lupine, coneflower, geranium, black-eyed susan, sunflower, angel’s trumpet, verbena, aster, shasta daisy.
  • Worried about bee stings?  Don’t bee!  Most bees are incapable of stinging you, and if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.  See our “No Fear of Stings” brochure for more on this topic.  Wildlife Preservation Canada has helped produce other resources on pollinators and pollination – see the list of publications on the bottom right hand side of this screen.