Bringing back the Butterflies

Tucked away in the Humber Bay Shores is a unique blend of greenery and condominiums. If you look closely you will notice a concrete shed colourfully decorated with butterflies that represent the restoration efforts being made by Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH). 

This is a project run by community stewards and guided by the efforts funded by the City of Toronto. Taking a stroll through the site, you will come across display boards explaining the three habitats: wildflower meadow, short grass prairie and a home garden. Each diverse habitat offers something unique such as stormwater management, artistic displays, ornamental plants and native vegetation essential for the survival of butterflies and other wildlife species. 


The HBBH is lucky enough to have Peg Thoen on their team. Peg has been involved with stewardship and co-ordinating the HBBH for nearly 13 years and says the team is full of great and enthusiastic people. 

“Not having a garden in my condo anymore, and also the easily-accessible and walkable aspect of it are a few reasons why I come back every year and it is what encourages more volunteers” (Peg Thoen, HBBH Co-ordinator). 

The team continues to grow year after year with many stewards returning. Peg has seen the growth of the the Humber Bay Shores from when it was previously owned by private hotels.  Fortunately, the City of Toronto has been able to return ownership as a public space. With this, her new perspective includes a balance between nature and development. This is because the area offers something very unique that many condo developments do not have the opportunity to have, a beautiful backyard. The backyards in this area include Lake Ontario with its natural ecological habitats right on the doorsteps of the condos where beavers, butterflies, field mice, minks, and grebes reside.

Stewards meet from April to September every Wednesday from 6 pm – 8pm. The group offers a variety of activities including opportunities to participate in water monitoring, the removal of invasive plant species, planting native wildflowers, and workshops on bees and butterflies. Through their efforts over the years, HBBH has seen a small but crucial increase in the number of monarch butterflies since its decline in the last 10 years. All monarch butterfly sightings are reported to Monarch Watch, where you can also learn more about monarch biology and lifecycle,  tagging, rearing, migration, and other ways to get involved. Recording and documenting invasive plants, water quality, native wildflower plantings, bee and butterfly sightings are all forms of citizen science. Citizen science is a way to educate and get community members involved in keeping track of any changes and to honor efforts being made. 


In the future Peg would like to see the HBBH extended and possibly more stewardship groups working in neighbouring parks.The importance of keeping a site like this has environmental and social benefits. Having access to a beautiful waterfront with green space improves air quality, health, and encourages outdoor activities. There is no doubt that the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is a true gem in the City of Toronto. 

Monica is a summer co-ordinator for the South Etobicoke INHALE project.