Growing pollinators in the River John area

Community Featured

SEAFOAM — A local woman is hoping to grow the community’s pollinator population.

Kiva-Marie Belt started in February as a ranger with the David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflyway Project and will soon help people in the area establish small plots for pollinators.

“I was expecting it to be difficult to get 12 people to participate, but I had over 50 express interest,” said Belt, whose family owns Seafoam Lavender Company and Gardens. “It’s just amazing. I accepted everyone who was interested; I didn’t want to turn anybody away.”

Kiva-Marie Belt

Through the project, rangers aim to help grow the bee and butterfly populations in their communities. They have regular training and pass that knowledge along to their community members. Being on a family-owned farm, Belt has access to hundreds of plants she’s able to provide to participants.

“We educate participants during the cold weather, and then I’ll help with the planting in May and June,” said Belt.

Pollinators (—bees, butterflies and beetles—) need both nectar and pollen, so organizers encourage people to grow a wide variety of plants.

“Native plants are ideal, but they’re sometimes hard to source,” said Belt. “My main pet project (before this program) has been the monarch butterfly, and their main plant is the milkweed. The swamp milkweed is native in Nova Scotia. It’s a good nectar plant and pollen plant.”

She says the monarch caterpillars also eat the leaves of the milkweed.

Other plants she’s focusing on for pollinators include bee balm, sunflowers, purple asters one can often find in the ditch, as well and brown-eyed Susans.

“A lot of people participating in the project are actually new to the area,” Belt said. “So many of them have bought houses in the area here over the last year. There are a lot of changes in who lives here.”

She says a lot of people have been working from home throughout the pandemic and now find themselves with time on their hands for gardening.

She hopes participants will continue their engagement with the community beyond the program, which will help grow the pollinator population.

“I would love them to become rangers next year.”

For the past three years, the 33-year-old has been helping her parents operate the business. She’s found a passion in monarch butterflies and says they’re “really iconic.”

“Everybody knows what they look like; their aesthetic is really special,” she said.

Monarchs, she adds, have an enormous migration pattern between Nova Scotia and Mexico each year.

“On the way back to Nova Scotia, each generation does a different leg of the trip. The summer generation only lives six weeks out of the year, while the winter/fall generation live six to seven months. I find them really interesting.”

She says participating as a ranger— (there are 1,000 across Canada this year) is just one way of creating a butterfly garden.

“But you don’t have to be part of this program to create a butterfly garden,” she said. “You can take one plant and put it on your doorstep. The bees will find it. The butterflies will find it. By having lots of small gardens, it really adds up for the pollinators. If everybody has a plant, it’s a sustainability thing.”

By creating a pollinator garden, or having a single plant, is just “one small thing people can do that will make a big difference.”

A monarch caterpillar on a swamp milkweed plant. (Kiva-Marie Belt photo)