EDIT 2022/09/07: My project, unfortunately for my sanity, changed quite a bit this summer due to some logistical constraints and new information. I will update here with final research questions very soon!


The David Suzuki Foundation launched the Butterflyway Project in Vancouver in 2018/2019, where volunteer citizens plant native wildflowers in yards, schools, streets, and parks to support bees and butterflies. This has been a wonderfully successful project, with over 150 gardens established since. As a bug nerd and bee enthusiast, I am curious about the pollinators visiting these Butterflyway gardens throughout Metro Vancouver. Pollinators are important insects that are often necessary for plants to reproduce, and they include a diverse group of insects like bees and butterflies. What species do we find in Butterflyways? What makes these gardens attractive to them? Much past research has helped guide these questions. There is strong evidence that planting a wide variety of flowers can help a wide variety of pollinators, through providing the resources they need like nectar, pollen, nesting habitat, and food for their young. You might expect that larger gardens see more pollinators (and this is commonly the case), but some studies have shown that at smaller scales, such as those represented by community gardens, size may have no appreciable effect on pollinator diversity at all! And what about environmental context? Gardeners hail from all over, ranging from pristine conservation areas to right in the heart of urban Vancouver. Does this matter to the bees and butterflies? What sorts of places do they like best?

To answer these questions, I will be surveying ~20 Butterflyway gardens throughout Metro Vancouver about once every two weeks from July – September. In each garden, I observe flowers for a while to identify and record pollinators. While I have perfect (corrected) vision, this is obviously not possible for many of the tinier bee species (some of them are smaller than your pinkie nail!). When this is the case, I will likely collect one or two individuals to take back to the lab for ID under the microscope. Don’t worry – this won’t harm overall bee populations! I’ll make a note of overall garden size and flower species diversity, as well as a list of plants blooming on the survey date. I will also be collecting other anecdotal data at the request of individual gardeners.

Once this all wraps up, I will analyze my data in the fall and start to summarize some of my findings. A list of pollinators per garden per month, as well as any requested garden-specific data, will be returned to gardeners and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Since I’m a master’s student, this will likely be my only field season. Thus, I want to try and help out in whatever ways I can for gardeners, whether that be paying extra attention to a particular flower or butterfly, giving a talk in the community, or simply answering questions and chatting in the field, I consider it a main goal and purpose of this project. If there are any ideas that interest you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

For any questions or more info, please contact Sophia at sfan@zoology.ubc.ca. See you in the gardens!