If there’s a rustle in your hedgerow...it might be a pollinator!

If there’s a rustle in your hedgerow...it might be a pollinator!

April 2, 2019 

By: Paige Erickson-McGee & Ashlea Veldhoen

Hedgerows have become a lot more mainstream since Led Zeppelin confounded fans everywhere by using the word in their hit song Stairway to Heaven all those years ago.

PC Kristen Miskelly 2

So, what is a hedgerow and who wants one anyway?

A hedgerow is just what it sounds like: a dense hedge, made up of a variety of different plants lined up in a row. And we are not talking about the overdone cedar hedge along every other property in the region. Depending on the type, size and density of the plants used, a hedgerow can not only provide pollen, nectar and habitat for pollinators, but also serve as ‘living fences’ between properties, windbreaks, catch dust and block noise, and even increase carbon storage. That is why HAT has begun to include hedgerow plantings as part of our Good Neighbours Program, which focuses in the Wildwood Creek Watershed in Metchosin, part of HAT’s 3-Year Wildlife Corridor Project linking habitat on private land from East Sooke to the Sooke Hills.

Sea Bluff Farm in Metchosin is investing in nature for a long term pay off for their farm and pollinators, a win-win relationship that can result in improved pollination, increased crop yields and thus economic benefits for the farmers, all while improving habitat for local pollinators.

Farm Managers Sasha Kubicek and Robin Tunnicliffe accepted an opportunity to partner with HAT’s pilot program for land managers to co-pay for habitat installations as part of the HAT Good Neighbours Program. Already a certified organic farm, Sea Bluff is an ideal location for planting a pollinator hedgerow by offering a sheltered space away from pesticide use, which would otherwise compromise its effectiveness as pollinator habitat.

On March 25 2019, HAT, Sea Bluff Farm, and Saanich Native Plant co-hosted a hedgerow planting across a 300-foot (90-m) fence line where 17 volunteers planted over 223 native shrubs and perennial wildflowers. Plant species were selected to provide the longest continuous bloom possible, from February to October with native species such as June Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), Saskatoon Berry (Amelanchier alnifolia), Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum), and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Bob Mitchell, second generation Metchosin farmer and operator at Sea Bluff since 1982, is thrilled to support pollinator stewardship on the farm, noting its educational benefits for local schools. “It will be great for the kids on the school buses who drive by on their way to Witty’s Lagoon” says Bob. “They can stop to look at the hedgerow and learn about them on class field trips.”

Photo: Hedgerow volunteers and HAT staff at Sea Bluff Farm - By: K. Miskelly

For the bee’s sake

BC has more than 450 species of native bees. That is more than the number of birds in all of Canada! So identification to species can be challenging and often isn't possible from a photograph. Most of our 

masonboregongrape Lori Weidenhammer

native species (about 70%) do not live in hives but are solitary, living in the ground or hollow stems. Solitary meaning that after mating, they prepare and provision their nests without cooperation with other bees. Although they often will nest together in numbers when a good nesting area is found, the bees are only sharing a good nesting site and not cooperating, including the Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria). None of them make honey (the honey bee – Apis melliforma – is not native to North America). Many of them do not sting. Our native bees come in a rainbow of colours including iridescent blues and greens, with only a very small number of species sporting the more familiar black and yellow bands. All bees evolved to use pollen for their protein source instead of animal prey. Think of them like wasps turned vegetarian, you’d virtually never expect to see a bumblebee (Bombus spp.) or any other bee visit the meat grilling on your backyard barbecue.

Currently, bee populations across the country are declining. Without enough food and nesting habitat on the landscape, pollinators are unable to find the resources necessary to survive. And bees are not the only ones. Right now, it is estimated that over 40 percent of all of Canada’s insects are also currently in steep decline. This reduction in bee and other insect populations can be attributed to wide-scale habitat loss to agriculture and development in combination with increased pesticide use and new diseases from introduced pollinator species.

Since insects are the basis for many food webs, their loss is likely causing chain reaction population declines in species that rely upon them – including our birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Faced with this knowledge, it seems only logical that we have a responsibility to support the recovery of our pollinators. Fortunately, conservation organizations including HAT are making it easier to do just that. HAT has begun a new initiative in partnership with local farmers and volunteers to plant or maintain hedgerows consisting of native trees, shrubs and plants that produce flowers and fruit – valuable food for bees and other pollinator insects.

Photo: Mason bee on Oregon Grape By: L. Weidenhammer

For better crops

Over a third of our native pollinating insects, such as leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) and sweat bees (Halictidae spp.), provide important pollination services for fruit, vegetable and other crop growers on Vancouver Island. Over one-third of our total diet is dependent, directly or indirectly, upon insect-pollinated plants, so inviting them into our farms using hedgerows makes sense from a social, economic and ecological perspective. Almost 90% of flowering plants need pollinators to reproduce, so bees are a critical element to ecosystem stability. Hedgerows on farms supplement pollinator habitat to feed, shelter and reproduce, but benefits of these hedges or not limited to pollinators.

“Hedgerows are very important from the point of view of shelter, for nesting birds, and especially migratory songbirds. We’ve had a lot of storms over the last few years and I think a lot of farms would have benefitted greatly from a higher hedgerow near them to provide shelter for their buildings and crops. Hedgerows are very important sites for pollinators, as nesting sites as well as for their safe cover and pollen and nectar sources” – Bob Maxwell, Co-chair of the Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission (retired) and owner of Fieldstone Farm.

Now during spring on Sea Bluff Farm, bees and other pollinators will be able feed on the hedgerow’s wild flowering plants all season long. In late summer and autumn, the hedgerow’s “messy and wild” appearance means that they also provide vital safety for late season birds and queen bumblebees that must fatten up to hibernate over winter.

Robin and Sasha sum it up perfectly by describing their motivation, “To us the many benefits of the hedgerow more than compensate for the small cost of installation and maintenance. It’s a small way for us to honour the insects and creatures who give us so much.”

HAT offers tips on managing a pollinator-friendly hedgerow:Dorothy with native plants PC Ashlea Veldhoen web

  • Site preparation is extremely important, but not difficult. Removing undesirable vegetation like Himalayan Blackberry, and laying down cardboard topped with thick mulch will reduce maintenance in the future.

  • Plant as densely as you can: planting 3-5 gallon-sized shrubs or perennial wildflowers per metre will result in a beautiful and functional hedge in 2-3 years.

  • Keep at least one mature native tree within each hedgerow – Dogwood, Scouler’s Willow, or even Garry Oak.

  • Where possible, cut hedgerows back on a three-year cycle - cutting no more than a third of hedges in any year. Cutting annually stops the hedgerow flowering and fruiting.

  • Where possible, cut in rotation rather than all at once as this will ensure some areas of hedgerow on your farm will always flower.

  • Hedges managed for pollinators should ideally be cut between November and January, in an A-shape. If they must be cut outside this, cut in rotation, so some areas remain undisturbed.

  • Let some plants grow “wild and messy” in hedgerows on top, side-trimming only. All those nooks and crannies are key nesting spaces for birds and hibernating bumblebees.

  • Where hedgerows must be cut along the roadside for safety, allow the inside to flower.

  • Aim for a hedgerow that is as high as possible, but ideally 2.5m above ground level.

  • Avoid spraying any herbicide near the hedgerow. Use mechanical weed control such as a weed-eater or hedge trimmer only when necessary.

  • Create a mulched buffer margin at the hedgerow base to prevent grasses and weeds from sprouting up and competing with planted stock.

To find out more about how to manage hedgerows for pollinating insects, and download the Designing and Planting Hedgerows (link to PDF) Guide published in partnership with Pollinator Partnership Canada, Saanich Native Plants, and HAT.

Want to be a Good Neighbour to Nature and plant your own hedgerow? Get in touch with us! Call: 250-995-2428 or E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo: Dorothy E. with native plants - By: A.Veldhoen

 

Some of the smiling faces of those who helped with the event, below!

  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (34)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (21)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (22)
  • Freshly turned soil - PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (49)
  • Paige & Robin Tunnicliffe PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (3)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (32)
  • PC Kristen Miskelly (2)
  • Kristen Miskelly with native plants PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (46)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (1)
  • Tiffany Joseph - PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (42)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (34)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (21)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (22)
  • Freshly turned soil - PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (49)
  • Paige & Robin Tunnicliffe PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (3)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (32)
  • PC Kristen Miskelly (2)
  • Kristen Miskelly with native plants PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (46)
  • PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (1)
  • Tiffany Joseph - PC - Ashlea Veldhoen  (42)

The HAT Good Neighbours Project is funded by people like you, and Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Metchosin Foundation, EcoAction Community Fund, and sponsorship by Saanich Native Plants Nursery and Consulting.

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Support our Good Neighbours Program

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors for helping fund this event!

HCTFMetchosin Foundationeco actionsaanichnativeplants

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Happy National Bat Appreciation Day - April 17, 2019

Happy National Bat Appreciation Day!

By Ashlea Veldhoen, Community & Development Coordinatorbatimage by Estraven

April 17, 2019

Now that Halloween is over, few people maybe thinking about bats, but at HAT we always keep bats top of mind. As the weather warms up our bats are coming out of their hibernacula and returning to their summering areas to feed and reproduce.

At HAT we believe that everyone can make a difference to help these amazing animals. Each year we work with local people to help create bat-friendly communities across the CRD. Why? Because bats need our help. From habitat loss due to development to the spread of foreign disease, human activities have resulted in significant losses to bat populations across North America. Last year alone we lost over 1 million Little Brown Myotis to White-nose Syndrome, and the numbers continue to climb. Without a voice of their own, bats cannot tell us how their populations are struggling due to habitat loss, persecution and disease.

People just like you helped us find new bat colonies, report hundreds of dead bats, and conducted point-count surveys across the CRD, recording over 10,000 bats. We put up bat boxes and even installed a special bat “condo” for a large group of Townsend’s Big-eared bats at one of the new bat colonies found in Metchosin in last year!

All of this information will help us track the spread of White-nose Syndrome (which as of this writing has not made it to Vancouver Island) and learn more about our local bat populations.

To celebrate Bats, we’d like to share with you the top 10 reasons we love and continue to help them! We hope this list will help dispel some misconceptions you may have surrounding bats, and inspires you to love bats as much as we do!

 

Top 10 Reasons we love bats

bat

  1. Bats are mammals, just like us! Bat mothers typically will have only one pup per year. Much like human infants, bat pups are born tiny, hairless and defenseless. They cling to their mothers and nurse regularly until they are big enough to leave the roost on their own.

  1. Bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. Bats use their leathery wings to achieve flight. Scientists are currently studying how bat flight is unique from the flight of birds. Check out this awesome video on YouTube on bat flight by Brown University. 

  2. Many bat species use echolocation to seek and catch their insect prey. While bats are not blind, they use echolocation to assist them in locating and catching their fast-moving prey in the dark. Different bat species echolocate at different frequencies. We can use a bat detector like the Anabat to record bat echolocation, connect the data to an iPad and special Bat Call monitoring software to determine which species is flying above us during bat counts.

  1. Bats eat lots of insects! Some consume their own body-weight in mosquitos every night! Bats are so important to maintaining healthy ecosystems. As both a consumer and prey species, bats help control insect populations and nutrient cycling through food webs.

  2. Many bat species – like the Little Brown Myotis and Townsend’s Big-eared bat – overwinter in rock crevices or caves, but some species also migrate long distances to warmer climates and over winter in trees

  1. Bats are generally long-lived. The Little Brown Myotis lives up to 7 years in the wild. One was even recorded to be 31 years old!

  1. It is generally considered safe for humans to live in near bats. There has been no evidence found to support any negative effects on humans living near bat guano in British Columbia. While rabies can be carried by bats, it is uncommon. If you or your pet has come into contact with a bat or have been bitten, go to your doctor or veterinarian to be sure you or your pet has not contracted the disease. Check out this link for more information on Living safely with Bats. http://bcbats.ca/index.php/got-bats/living-with-a-bats

  1. Female bats stick together during pup season, roosting and raising pups all together in small maternity colonies. Male bats will generally roost alone.

  1. Bats generally only fly at dawn, dusk and at night. Bats are expert fliers in the dark and use their echolocation to locate and avoid objects like trees, houses and people in the dark! Seeing a bat flying during the day – especially in winter – can be an indication of illness. Be sure to report your sightings of dead bats or any that show signs of illness to HAT (250) 995-2428 or the BC Community Bat Program (1-855-922-2287)

  1. Bats are cute! At HAT, we sometimes refer to bats as flying puppies for their tiny ears, dog-like snouts and fluffy little bodies.

How can you help bats?James McLauchlan Bat House 2017 Stewards

  1. Visit: http://hat.bc.ca/bats/what-you-can-do
  2. You can help bats by learning more about them and sharing facts with your friends!
    Visit: www.hat.bc.ca/bats and www.bcbats.ca for more information on local bat species.

  1. Help us learn more about them by participating in our Annual Summer Bat Count. For more information, visit: http://hat.bc.ca/bats/about-our-program E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 250-995-2428.

  1. Report your bat sightings to HAT (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or the BC Community Bat Program at http://bcbats.ca/index.php/got-bats/report-your-bats or (1-855-922-2287)

  1. Build or install a bat box to provide much needed habitat and respite for female bats to raise their young. If you’re a woodworker or a handy-person, find Bat box plans here: HAT also sells two types of bat boxes through our office. Give us a call or send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request more information on what you need to do to install a bat box on your property.

  1. Got Bats? Leave them alone and give us a call! If you have bats and would like to safely exclude them from your home, contact HAT or the BC Community Bat Program and we’d be happy to advise you. You can also check out some of these great publications about bats in buildings here: http://bcbats.ca/index.php/got-bats/excluding-bats-from-a-building

  1. All 17 bat species in British Columbia are protected under the Provincial Wildlife Act and harassing, maiming or harming them in any way is a criminal offense. Give us a call if you have bats and would like to safely exclude them from your home.

  1. Share this post with friends and family, and encourage them to help make their own Bat-friendly Communities!

More information

HAT: www.hat.bc.ca/bats
HAT Bat Publication: http://hat.bc.ca/images/2014_Bat_Guide_FINAL_smaller.pdf

BC Community Bat Program: www.bcbats.ca  Community Bat Programs of BC logo

Other bat links

· Bat Education link: https://batslive.pwnet.org/

· Bat Conservation International: http://www.batcon.org/

· White-nose Syndrome: https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/

Bat Appreciation Day Links

· https://nationaldaycalendar.com/days-2/national-bat-appreciation-day-april-17/

· https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/bat-appreciation-day/

· https://batworld.org/happy-bat-appreciation-day/

· https://whenisholiday.com/america/when-is-national-bat-appreciation-day-2019.html

· https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/national-bat-appreciation-day

· https://www.cookspest.com/wildlife/bat-appreciation-day/

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Volunteer Spotlight April 2019 - Kathleen Cathcart

Volunteer Spotlight April 2019 - Kathleen Cathcart 

In this fourth Volunteer Spotlight of 2019, we'd like to highlight Kathleen Cathcart, a Habitat Restoration Volunteer! Kathleen was instrumental in the success of many of our restoration events, from coordinatinkathleen cathcartg with volunteers, creating posters for events and assisting with HAT's Big Bat Bash, Kathleen has been a a huge help! 

When we asked Kathleen what she liked best about volunteering with HAT and what first inspired her to begin volunteering with us, she had this to say: 

"My favourite experience has to be the trip we did to Galiano Island to remove scotch broom. It was such a nice day over looking the cliffs down to the water. I couldn’t believe how much we removed that day. Hanging out with everyone on the ferry ride home watching the sunset is incredibly memorable.

I wanted to get involved with HAT because  I was able to work closely with Wendy, the Habitat [Management] Coordinator, and I learned a lot from her about her job and how she goes about handling each project. I was also able to get some experience with some of the more urban restoration projects, like in the Matson Conservation Area in Esquimalt. I hope to bring this experience forward with me during my masters at SFU and BCIT in Ecological Restoration."

Thank you to Kathleen for your hard work and dedication to HAT, for contributing so much to our events and helping out where ever you can. We are so grateful for your support and hope that your experience will be a wonderful example to inspire others to get involved in volunteering with HAT.

...
If you'd like to volunteer with our any of our programs in 2019, be sure to watch for opportunities in the Volunteer Opportunities Section, below and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Volunteer Spotlight March 2019 - Joanne Thomson

Volunteer Spotlight March 2019 - Joanne Thomson 

Thomson Knockan Hill camas bloom watercolour on paper 11 X 14
In this, the third of 2019's Volunteer Spotlights, we'd like to highlight one of our most dedicated volunteers: Joanne Thomson. She is a phenomenal local artist whose work features beautiful depictions of the natural world. She has worked with schools in the community to create murals, colouring books and more. This year Joanne was instrumental in helping us conduct the Silent Auction at the Big Bat Bash, as well as creating wonderful bat colouring sheets for young children to colour during the event. 

When we asked Joanne what her favourite experience with us has been so far and why she initially became a volunteer with HAT, she was happy to oblige, replying: 
     

         "It is difficult to come up with one experience of volunteering with HAT that has been the highlight. I have been volunteering with HAT for over a decade and find every experience to be enjoyable. I put my hand to everything as time allows, which is another way of saying sporadically. I have pulled broom, cut back blackberry, helped with events, donated products to silent auctions, made a model of a painted turtle (this may be a favourite), created ‘profile’ art work at a gala event. This year I will be creating a portable mural for Green Spots education and will be calling for adult volunteers to help paint it.

           [I have] a desire to help to preserve wild places, and in particular the Garry Oak Meadows. I love the meadows and spend many hours in the Spring drawing the vistas and flowers. What has kept me involved is the philosophy of HAT and the dedication to working within its means. I feel confident that HAT will continue to be successful as time moves forward and that lands now protects will continue to be protected welling the future. Thank you for all the work you do and the vision that makes it all possible."

Thank you to Joanne for your hard work and dedication to HAT, for contributing your art to our events and helping us whereever you can. We are so grateful for your support and hope that your kind words and experience will inspire others to get involved in volunteering with HAT.

If you'd like to volunteer with our any of our programs in 2019, be sure to watch for opportunities in the Volunteer Opportunities Section of the Fern, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
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Volunteer Spotlight February 2019 - Margaret How

Volunteer Spotlight February 2019 - Margaret How 

In this, the second of 2019's Volunteer Spotlights, we'd like to highlight one of our most dedicated volunteers: Margaret How. Margaret has been involved with our events for about five years! She is always keen to help with restoration activities, events and more! Time after time Margaret has demonstrated that her passion for nature and commitment to conservation is bottomless.

When we asked Margaret what her favourite experience with us has been so far and why she initially became a volunteer with HAT, she was happy to oblige, replying:

"I first started with HAT at Ruby Creek, Colleen Long of CRD Parks took me [there] and I was hooked. The group was amazing [and] that was about 5 years ago. You [at HAT] are lovely people to work with.

My favorite experience, well that is very difficult - [I] love working on Galiano. The area is spectacular. But Matson Lands is close to the heart as all the efforts there are showing off. Havenwood is a lovely challenge with the holly. I do enjoy a good dig. Well then there is Mount Matheson - [I] totally enjoy the progress and camaraderie there. What can one say about Camas Hill? Then there is all the Metchosin efforts - although the smoke was rough [this summer]. No one location can be selected. I just truly enjoy restoration efforts and the people you meet. Thank you for the honour."

Thank you to Margaret for all your hard work, and to all who have supported habitat restoration projects with HAT so far. We are ever grateful for your support and hope that your kind words and experience will inspire others to get involved in volunteering with HAT.

If you'd like to volunteer with our any of our programs in 2019, be sure to watch for opportunities in the Volunteer Opportunities Section of the Fern, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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This article is an excerpt from the February edition of our monthly E-news, The Fern.
Subscribe to The Fern E-news for more articles like these and to keep up to date on all of our activities and volunteer opportunities. 

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