Living rural in the city is great – you can do it, too.

Category: Ecology (page 1 of 2)

Creating lawn habitat for endangered bumblebees

In April 2017, news got around about the first bee to land on the US endangered species list: Bombus affinis, commonly known as the Rusty Patched bumble bee. It has a, well, rusty patch on its back. It’s endemic to North America, which means its range is only North America – and not all parts, either. Rusty-patched bumblebees have been decimated nine times over – that’s 90% – from earlier population counts.

This article is a prelude to next week’s Pollinator Week, June 17–23, 2019, whereby I’ll be updating and sharing posts I’ve already written earlier about how we can help bees and butterflies (and maybe even bats). It’s timely, given my previous post on converting lawn to meadow, and how June’s a productive time in the garden where you can still get started! We need honeybees, bumblebees, and native pollinators to help us. So please help them.

Also — bumble bee, bumblebee — it doesn’t matter which one you use. So I use both!


Bumblebees are important pollinators of native and fruiting crops. In some crops, the flowers need the particular buzz of the bumblebee to shake the pollen loose – they aren’t going to give it up for just any old insect!

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Replacing your grass lawn with a meadow, or just allowing one to happen

Do you hate mowing the lawn? Holy cow, I used to. We had a lawn that was half the size of a football field, and I spent many hours doing it. It’s not a hobby. And loads of gasoline spilled, actually. It kills the grass, but the grass comes back after a week or two.

When I first published this post (in June, 2017), a friend just turned me on to the Freakonomics podcast episode about America’s “stupid” obsession with lawns. It has a lot of different points of view and recommendations on what to do differently. Native species, alternative lawn care, and urban agriculture are some of the topics. Listen at the link.

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Garden certification from Espace pour la vie

Hello, fellow wildlife gardener! Last year, I certified Big City Little Homestead’s garden as Wildlife-Friendly with the Canadian Wildlife Federation (you can too!). The certificate I received is the feature image, above.

At the beginning of every September (if not a little earlier), the Montreal Botanical Garden “Espace pour la vie” website offers a similar service, so I registered my garden there. Certification is annual, so you need to update your pictures every year, by October 15th. There are four themes for certification:

  • Biodiversity garden
  • Bird  garden
  • Monarch oasis
  • Food garden

They have a map extension they call the “Gardenaut Gallery,” so that you can visit the photos that gardeners have submitted to the program – there are over 300 entries in all of Quebec!

My entry is here:

Why you should make your chimney available to Chimney Swifts

A chimney swift is a bird, an aerial insectivore that consumes more than 1000 insects per day. It roosts in brick-laid chimneys. It’s not a dusty child from a Charles Dickens novel!

When the winter hearth fires are put out until next autumn comes, this article, How to make your chimney a home for chimney swifts, is an inspiration to an urban wildlife lover (click the link for a 6-minute read).

The key point is if your chimney is not lined with a metal tube, you’re in luck! You could host some chimney swifts. Montreal’s population will be here in May.

Their numbers have dwindled and habitat has declined, but with an open-sided chimney cap, you could take part in boosting their numbers now! (If your chimney’s dirty, clean it — you need to do this for fire hazard and insurance purposes every few years, because creosote builds up.)

At Le Nichoir, where I’ve volunteered, they have a rehab aviary for the young and injured and a habitat for healthy chimney swifts. As I later found out, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 decimated Quebec’s population of chimney swifts. Their population still needs help.

“The chimney swift has declined in Canada by 90 percent since the 1970s. In Manitoba, we basically sit at the northwest periphery of its global range, and when a species declines it always declines from its edges… We’re probably at the frontline of trying to help this species here in Manitoba because we’re at that edge.”

Tim Poole, Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative
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