We hear it on the radio, read it in newspapers and see it online: bees are dying. But what does this really mean and how can we save them?
450 wild species to protect
Most of the time when we think of bees, we think of honeybees. We picture the beekeeper in their white suit with smoker; jars of golden and amber honey and candles of yellow and golden wax. The honeybee is a wonderful creature to work with. Thier colony is a super-organism of complexity and beauty. But what many people don’t realize is that there are 450 different wild bee species indigenous to B.C.
The various bumble, mason, digger, leaf cutter, hairy belly and other bees, for example, were here long before us. It’s these wild species (which are mostly solitary), that we’re at risk of losing entirely due to their habitat being disturbed. Another reason their numbers are dwindling is because pesticide use in agriculture inhibits their ability to forage successfully.
Locally, the honeybee is a big player in the pollination of agricultural products like our beloved BC blueberries, cranberries and pumpkins. She produces a delicious variety of honeys unique to the season and to the crop or neighbourhood where it’s produced.
How can I help?
If you want to help save urban bees, the first and most important thing is to plant food for them. There are some excellent resources, including: Elizabeth Elle’s SFU Bee Lab, Feed the Bees and Xerces Society to help you select plants appropriate for our climate that provide forage for both wild and managed bees.
And a new report from Vancity offers bee-friendly tips to protect honeybees and wild bees, including:
- Don’t mow lawns when nectar and pollen producing weeds are blooming, particularly dandelion and clover.
- Eliminate pesticide use in yards.
- Plant gardens with flowers attractive to bees, including peas, beans, heather, rhododendron and many others.
- Preserve nesting sites for wild bees by leaving bare patches of dirt and piles of brush.
- Establish nest boxes with cavities of various sizes that mimic the twig and reed nests of solitary bees.
Hives for Humanity teaches beekeeping with community in mind. Therapeutic beekeeping and gardening programs are offered in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to foster self-worth and community pride, while supporting eco-diversity and raising awareness about bees and their habitats. And if you’re interested in becoming an urban beekeeper, read this post for some advice on getting started.