Bees and Your Garden

If you’ve got a garden, or ever been in anyone else’s garden, you’ve definitely seen or even heard a bee buzzing around. For the most part, people think of bees as buzzing from flower to flower and then congregating in a hive somewhere to make honey. However, bees do more than just make honey. In fact, not all bees even produce honey. Bees are the most common pollinators, along with butterflies, hummingbirds and bats. 90% of the world’s plants rely on pollinators for both fertilization and reproduction. In the US alone, bees added at least $15 billion in crop value through pollination. Honeybees pollinate everything from nuts to produce as well as coffee and cotton. Recently though, bee populations have been on the decline.

Bees are disappearing

In the U.S, 42% of honeybee hives collapsed last year. Here in Canada, farmers, scientists and beekeepers have become increasingly worried about the collapse of honeybee colonies. No one seems to be too certain about what’s causing the decline of bees worldwide- insecticides, mites,climate change, poor nutrition due to a lack of flowers to feed on. The general consensus seems to be that all these factors are impacting bee health and lives. Now honeybees have beekeepers to watch out for them, but wild bee populations do not have anyone looking out for them and are experiencing similar declines.

Bee the change

In a response to the declining bee populations, many organizations and individuals have taken action. On the provincial level, governments have introduced pesticide bans to protect both people and pollinators. Municipal governments also have introduced pesticide bans. In addition to governments, there are organizations taking action to convince governments to make changes to laws to protect pollinators. There are also other organizations that engage with the general public to educate them about bees and how to help create a habitats for pollinators.

The Environmental Youth Alliance is distributing “bee condos” through the Pollinator’s Paradise project. In a partnership with the City of Vancouver and and Vancouver Park Board, the group built and place small “condos” for bees in backyards as well as much larger “super lodges” to be placed in parks. These buildings serve to educate the public about bees while at the same time providing a habitat for mason bees to live in and thrive. The organization definitely follows  Rule 1 by focusing clearly on an action, by providing residents with the bee condos, they eliminate the need for residents to create their own bee habitats. Furthermore, by choosing to partner with the City and and the Park Board, the Youth Alliance keeps the trust of their target audience and their message authentic, as stated in Rule 4. The Youth Alliance manages to keep it fun by making the super lodges in a partnership with a woodworking class at an area high school and making the lodges in shapes of the great pyramids and a pagoda.

In your own garden,you can work to make a pollinator friendly space to help these pollinators survive. Although exotic plants can be beautiful, they often are not what pollinators need. Pollinators are quite happy with native plants so remember to include plants that are local to the area in your garden was well. Planting a variety of plants is one way to ensure that pollinators are getting the nutrition they need, just like humans can’t survive on the nutrients from one meal alone and require different foods to meet our dietary needs, pollinators also need variety to get all their nutrients.

So when you get to planting your garden this summer, be sure to check out the list of plants that the Canadian Wildlife Federation recommends to attract bees and butterflies!

Photo Credit: Terry Lucas

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