By REMI STEPHANIE ROZARIO AND KEVIN VITORINO
Exquisite little creatures like butterflies and bees make it seem as if nature has its own way of flaunting its precious creations.
Conserving the lives of these pollinating animals is vital for our ecosystem as the number of insects has been decreasing globally, and that’s where a healthy ravine plays a key role.
The Glen Stewart Ravine in the Beach is a landscape that is home to an array of plant and bird life. Stretching for 11 hectares south of Kingston Road west of Beech Avenue, it is surrounded with greenery in the form of trees, including rare red oaks, grasses, and shrubs.
Having the ravine in good condition is critical to the health of key pollinators such as bees and Monarch butterflies.
Ginetta Peters, 54, a Monarch butterfly expert from the Beach, believes that butterflies are what people really get excited about because of their beauty.
“They’re also like a canary in a coal mine. Once they kind of disappear or start disappearing as they have done in the last few decades, it’s a trigger for other things that are problematic,” she said.
Creating habitats for butterflies creates a pathway for other animals such as bees, birds, and wildlife, as it has a “residual effect.”
It also creates proper drainage, so it’s painting a bigger picture than just the mere sight of beautiful creatures.
According to Peters, one of every three bites of food are dependent on pollinators. She pointed out that we wouldn’t have chocolate or coffee, without bees acting as pollinators.
Alongside various other reasons that we require butterflies to live, they also act as a reminder of nature’s beauty.
“We need beauty and reminders that we are with nature and it just triggers happiness and wonder,” said Peters.
She shared that the Monarch population has increased 144 per cent this year according to scientists on Canada’s east coast, “so something’s happening that’s right.”
The world wants its colours to remain vibrant and for the cycle of life to move smoothly, a major component of which is ensuring that butterflies are kept alive. So, how can people help butterfly conservation?
Peters believes that creating and honouring natural habitats in places like the Glen Stewart Ravine is important to the conservation of both butterflies and bees.
“Stay on the paths when you’re in the ravine because a lot of the bees like to ground nest and a lot of the butterflies look like branches, so you might be stepping on their bodies and habitats.”
The City of Toronto’s guide, Butterflies of Toronto, warns against butterfly releases, a controversial practice that has become popular over the past few years. These releases are often held at weddings, remembrance ceremonies, for educational purposes, and other events.
However, releasing butterflies into environments foreign from their point of origin can create problems such as the spread of disease or parasites, as well as genetic mixing between butterfly populations.
To combat this, the City of Toronto prohibits the release of butterflies into parks.
How humans treat their ravines is especially important, according to the Friends of Glen Stewart Ravine. “One thing we can all do right now is change the human use of the ravines.”
This means encouraging people to stay on main trails, keep dogs on-leash around the ravines, stop littering, and also ensuring that people do not pick out plants or food from the ravine as it eliminates the chances of being available for animals residing in the ravine.
The City of Toronto has also provided a list of ways residents can help protect butterflies including participating in butterfly counts, reporting butterfly sightings, and attending butterfly workshops and events.
To that end, the Friends of Glen Stewart Ravine is hosting an Earth Day celebration event on Saturday, April 27. It will include a ravine clean-up, native seed giveaways, and a chance to meet local bee and butterfly experts as part of Pollinator Palooza.
The Earth Day celebration at Glen Stewart Ravine will take place between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and participants are asked to meet at the Beech Avenue entrance to the ravine at the top of the street.
For more information, please visit the Friends of the Glen Stewart Ravine on Facebook by searching the group’s name.