Edmonton’s Hidden Gems: Hodgson Wetland

Hodgson Wetland

Hodgson Wetland is a permanent wild marsh (approximately 2.2 hectares) located in southeast Edmonton, Alberta. This unique natural area is protected by the city of Edmonton since 2002. The wetland has a border of sedge, willow and cattails that serve as an ecological buffer, protecting water quality and providing nesting and feeding habitat for waterfowl. Approximately 200 meters to the west is a constructed companion to the natural wetland, built to hold and filter storm water. Both wetlands provide habitat for ducks, grebes, geese and other water-loving birds, frogs and muskrats.

Native plants (e.g., Poplars, Pin Cherry, Saskatoon, Buffaloberry, Snow Berry, Wolf Willow, Dogwood, etc.) have been planted along the upland corridor to the northwest of the natural wetland. This corridor acts as a stepping stone in the city’s ecological network of natural areas, creating a functional connection between Hodgson Wetland and the Whitemud Creek that lies approximately 400 meters to the east. Such functional connectivity allows birds and small animals to move between the wetland and the Creek, and enrich the wetland with wildlife and birds from the river valley.

There has been active involvement of Hodgson Wetland Stewardship Group since 2009 in maintaining the wetlands area. Sidewalk ringing the natural wetland, and viewing platforms provide an opportunity to view open water, emergent vegetation zones and upland plant areas. An added benefit to the viewers is that the wetland is adjacent to a paved road and therefore is easily accessible. Although modest in size, Hodgson Wetlands system offers people to enjoy and learn about a variety of native plants and birds.

-Ambika Paudel, Master Naturalist 2015

Attracting Native Pollinators

Native Pollinators

When you hear the word “pollinator”, the first insect that comes to mind is likely the honey bee. While they are voracious pollinators, foraging in an area up to 5 kilometres from their hive, honeybees are actually better pollen collectors than spreaders. They are also not native to North America, having been introduced in the early 1600s from Europe. In Edmonton, honey bees are unlikely to survive on their own in great numbers in the natural environment due to our harsh winter climate.

There are, however, thousands of bee species that are native to North America. Some native species are social insects like wasps. Bumblebees also create a small colony where they raise their young together. Other bees are solitary, living their life on their own. All of these bees provide valuable pollination services for plants in the vicinity of their nest as most of these bees only forage in a 200m range.

beespotter.org

Blue Orchard Mason Bee

Benefits to Natural Areas and Ecosystems

While we appreciate the value of pollinators when it comes to our own food production, it’s not often that we recognize the value of pollinators in helping plants reproduce. That is, of course, why the shrubs and trees produce fruit – to spread its seeds in the hope of fostering the growth of a new plant. Without the services of these bees, some plants may go unfertilized, decreasing the chance of that plants’ survival. Some of these relationships have been developed so that a single type of bee will only pollinate one genera of flower. When we lose one of these species, the other is lost as well.

Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee

Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee

Feeding bees

Solitary bees need shelter and food, as we all do. You can help provide both of those for a variety of native bees. The first thing you could do is to provide a rich food source for bees in your yard; think of it as an edible garden for bees, which need nectar- and pollen-rich flowers for the entire growing season. Bees prefer yellow, white, blue, and purple flowers, planted in clusters. Plant in open areas, so the flowers are easier to find. Focus on perennial native species, as they require less maintenance.

nativeplantgroup.org

Canada Goldenrod

Top Ten Plants for Bees

Spring blooming

  • Prairie crocus
  • Smooth blue beard tongue

Summer blooming

  • Wild bergamot
  • Alpine Hdysarum
  • Lupine
  •  Fleabane

Early fall blooming

  • Prairie goldenrod
  • Aster
  • Purple coneflower

Providing shelter for native bees

Bees often live in tunnels in dead trees. You can replicate this quite easily by drilling holes of a variety of sizes (3/32” – 3/8”) 15 cm into a log. Drill as many as you please – the more locations you provide, the more bees can use it. Different species of solitary bee use different sized holes. Bees will not nest in a tunnel that’s open on both ends so be sure that one end is closed. Place the log in a location near a landmark – a fence, tree, or wall. It should receive morning sun, and afternoon shade. Be patient, as it will take time for bees to find your new bee hotel!

Bee hotel log

Bee hotel log

-Michael Hamilton

 

Sources:

Gardening for Bees by Apiaries and Bees For Communities, Stacey Cedergren, 2015.

Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies, Xerces Society, 2015.

http://Beespotter.org

http://Pollinator.ca

http://edmontonnativeplantgroup.org