Cindy's blog Feb 16. 2016 "Calstone will save them!"


If you were standing on a hilltop sanctuary near Mexico City a few weeks ago where monarchs from Canada and the U.S. Midwest spend their winters, you would have thought it was raining butterflies.  After traveling thousands of kilometres, these tiny critters cling to branches in clusters so dense they bend the bows of massive fir trees. When the sun warms them up the sky is filled with the beautiful colours of the Monarchs.

Today, representatives from the government of Mexico announced that Monarch butterfly populations had dropped by 27 percent since last year. This isn’t entirely surprising, as a tragic storm wiped out more than six million butterflies mere days before they departed from Mexico on their 5,500-kilometre, multi-generational journey.

However, this represents a more than 80 per cent drop in the population in the past twenty years. Severe storms and the virtual eradication of milkweed by over use of an herbicide called glyphosate, which has virtually eradicated monarch’s host plant milkweed from much of the species’ breeding grounds, and illegal logging in Mexico has created a perfect storm of extinction, leading scientists to speculate that the species may be at risk of extinction.

Nearly 90 per cent of all plants need a pollinator to reproduce and as bee populations drop, the role of the butterfly becomes even more vital. Without these wonderful insects, many plant species would then be unable to reproduce and their populations would dramatically decrease without the butterfly’s presence.  This loss of plant life would affect both animals and humans.

Butterflies also provide assistance for genetic variation in the plant species they that they collect nectar from. The Monarch butterfly migrates over long distances, which allows pollen to be shared across groups of plants that are far apart from one another. This helps plants to be more resilient against disease and gives them a better chance at survival. Monarchs are a natural way to keep plant populations healthy and disease free.

I am happy to report that Calstone will be doing it’s part to ensure the continued strength of the Monarch butterfly.  Calstone is teaming up with the TRCA (Toronto and Regional Conservation Authority)  to support a local school and help upgrade their outdoor space. This school is drastically underfunded and are really excited about the changes Calstone is going to make.

We will be building a raingarden with a butterfly pollinator along with an outdoor education space. Tom Longboat is an elementary school down the road from Calstone in the Malvern area of Scarborough. The school is named after Tom Longboat an aboriginal long distance runner. Longboat was one of the most celebrated pre-WWI athletes. He won the Boston Marathon (1907), the Toronto  Marathon 1908,  and broke numerous records.

The Calstone Transformation Project will be starting in the Spring and the rain garden will help to mitigate storm water run off. The pollinator garden will be filled with indigenous plants: bright colours, especially blue, yellow and violet are attractive to butterfly pollinators.

Indigenous plants 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.

The students at Tom Longboat will benefit from learning about pollination and how important it is to our food supply. The outdoor education area will allow them to get outside, enjoy nature, watch the butterflies, learn about rain water harvesting, storm water management, flood mitigation and appreciate the environment.

Once completed this project will be showcased through the TDSB, the media, social media and through PPG’s network to highlight how the community, a school board and a private company can work together to for students and the betterment of the community.