Pollinator gardens: How Hamilton residents can help monarch butterflies

Click to play video: 'What Ontarians can do to help monarch butterflies'
What Ontarians can do to help monarch butterflies
WATCH: After spending their winter down in Mexico, monarch butterflies are migrating back to Ontario! For more information on what these iconic insects mean to the ecosystem and how you can help in their conservation, TRCA educational program manager Vicky An joins Candace Daniel from Tommy Thompson Park – Jul 13, 2022

The addition of the monarch butterfly to the international list of endangered species has spurred a call to action from Hamilton environmentalists.

The butterfly species has been endangered in Canada since 2016 but was added to the international list last week.

Jen Baker of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club said the designation six years ago was what sparked them to work with Environment Hamilton to create the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise Project, which encourages residents to plant native flowers and plants like milkweed in their gardens to help all pollinators – including monarchs.

“We’ve been using monarchs as kind of a way to attract people because people are pretty attached to monarchs,” she told Global News. “And so, anything that you do to help pollinators is really going to help monarchs as well.”

Story continues below advertisement

Monarchs are dependent on milkweed when they’re in the caterpillar stage but once they’re butterflies, they will feed off of any native plants listed on the Pollinator Paradise Project’s website.

Baker said the idea of the project is to make it so a pollinator like a bee could travel across the city, making stops for food along the way.

“If all of us add some stuff – some native plants, trees, shrubs, whatever – into our gardens … if all of us do that, we’ll be a refuge for monarchs and pollinators in our urban area.”

Click to play video: 'Monarch butterflies now listed as an endangered species'
Monarch butterflies now listed as an endangered species

It’s not just something limited to people who have gardens, either.

For those who live in an apartment and have limited outdoor space, Baker said just having some kind of native plants outside is helpful.

Story continues below advertisement

“Not everywhere is going to provide full habitat for every species, but people with smaller spaces can provide pit stops for them to rest and get a bit of food before maybe they head to their main habitat.”

The city of Hamilton has been working to add more pollinator spaces over the years and was designated as a ‘bee friendly’ city in 2020.

Gage Park is home to a Monarch Waystation and a pollinator-friendly bioswale stormwater pond, both of which were highlighted on social media last month.

Story continues below advertisement

A spokesperson for the city highlighted the 500-square-foot garden at Sam Lawrence Park that has butterfly bushes and the Olmsted natural open space near Upper James Street and Rymal Road as other pollinator-supporting areas.

Creating pollinator habitats is also part of the master plans for Mountain Drive Park, the Pipeline Trail and the William Connell park expansion.

Baker said the city has been doing a lot more work in terms of supporting biodiversity and conservation in recent years, but said that there’s always more that can be done.

One thing that she’d like to see is the addition of more native species of plants and flowers in existing gardens, while annual flowers could be replanted in places like medians on the roadway – places where it already wouldn’t be ideal for pollinators to visit.

Anyone who wants to create a pollinator-friendly yard or outdoor space at their home is encouraged to check out the ‘plant pollinator toolkit’ on the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise project’s website.

For anyone who can’t create their own garden for whatever reason but who still wants to help make Hamilton a friendlier place for monarchs, Baker said volunteers are welcome – contact her at

Story continues below advertisement

Sponsored content