The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat (HBBH) is an exciting and unique public green space in Toronto. Located in Humber Bay Park East, the HBBH is a restored outdoor area which has been designed to attract butterflies by offering nectar plants, host plants, boulders for sunning, wind shelters, water access, hibernacula (places for hibernating) and other things butterflies need to survive through every stage of life.
With interpretive signs informing visitors about the space and about some of the species they could see there, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat provides a much-needed oasis for both Lepidopteran insects and nature-lovers alike.
Free to Visit, in More Ways Than One
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is not the same as an enclosed butterfly conservatory - it is simply an open area in Humber Bay Park East. Butterflies, and people, come and go as they please. Of course this means there are no admission fees, but it also means you may or may not see any butterflies on the day you visit. The time of year is always a factor, as is the weather ("warm, sunny days with little wind" are best, says the HBBH welcome sign).
Things to See at the HBBH
It's important to remember that unlike the indoor butterfly conservatory in Niagara Falls, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is an open outdoor space where butterflies, birds, and other wildlife come and go as they please. Many butterfly species are migratory, and plants will bloom at various times throughout the spring and summer.
While you can't be certain what you'll see on any given visit to the HBBH, you can be sure that the opportunities will change throughout the season, which is a great reason to go back again and again!
Spotting Butterfly Species
Don't Forget the Flora!
- Swamp Milkweed
- Joe-Pye Weed
- Trembling Aspen
- Shasta Daisy
- Wild Strawberry
- Black Eyed Susan
- Wild Bergamot
- Prairie Smoke
- Cardinal Flower
- Fox Sedge
Consider Taking Along a Nature Field Guide
(found in the "Resources" section). There are books dedicated solely to identifying trees, flowers, birds, butterflies and more.
The Butterfly Habitat Design and Maintenance
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is actually made up of three different types of habitat:
The Short Grass Prairie includes trees and shrubs for perching, along with low-growing plants which are drought-resistant.
The Wildflower Meadow also includes some plants of the short grass prairie variety but adds features from three other vegetation types - tallgrass prairie, wet meadow, and upland meadow.
The Home Garden is a particularly interesting place to spend time if you're a gardener (or would like to be). This part of the HBBH showcases some of the plants and design features which can easily be incorporated into your own landscaping to help support all the life stages of the butterfly.
Help With Toronto's Butterfly Habitat
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat officially opened in September of 2002, and it continues to be maintained by volunteers. If you'd like to help out as a member of the HBBH Community Stewardship team, you can apply to become a City of Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Volunteer.
More Reasons to Visit the HBBH
Even if you're not much of a nature watcher, the "Home Garden" section of the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat may appeal as a quiet place to read, sketch, take photos, or just relax.
The Home Garden is arranged in a semi-circle, with benches in the middle and is enriched with public art.
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is also located off the Waterfront Trail and can make a nice stop for passing cyclists and inline skaters.
Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat - Location and Directions
The Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat is located on the northern shore of Humber Bay Park East, on the Etobicoke waterfront. It runs parallel to Marine Parade Drive/the Waterfront Trail, eastbound from the foot of Park Lawn Road.
By Foot or Bike
If you are entering Humber Bay Park East from Humber Bay Park West (across the footbridge), just follow the main path to the first intersection. Cross Humber Bay Park Road East (so you're still heading parallel to Marine Parade Drive on the path) and you will see welcome signage for the HBBH on your right.
By Public Transit
Take the 501 Queen Streetcar to Park Lawn Road. The path into the park is on the southwest side of the street. Follow its straight to the start of the HBBH (you will cross Humber Bay Park Road East).
Alternatively, you can take the 66D Prince Edward bus southbound from Old Mill Station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Get off at the Park Lawn/Lake Shore Loop and follow the path into the park (note that the northbound bus does not go into the loop - cross Lake Shore to the north side of Park Lawn Road for your return trip). If you mistakenly get on the 66A - which only goes as far as the Humber Loop - just board the 501 Queen Streetcar westbound and get off at Park Lawn Road.
The entrance to Humber Bay Park East is at the corner of Lake Shore Boulevard West and Park Lawn Road. You can stay on Park Lawn Road, which becomes Marine Parade Drive, and see if there is street parking available along Marine Parade Drive (check the parking signs carefully, as there are some areas parking is not allowed).
If you'd prefer to use the parking lot, head south into the park along Park Lawn Road, then take your first right onto Humber Bay Park Road East. This will take you around the pond to the parking lot. From the lot you will need to either walk back the way you came or cross the small footbridge to reach the HBBH on the north shore of the pond.