Tips to Help Save Your Local Bee Populations

Posted July 7, 2020 by Vindi Sekhon

Bees are an important part of maintaining a healthy environment. Bees help with the pollination of plants and food crops that produce fruits and seeds. Bees help restore biodiversity and support a variety of plants and wildlife.

Agricultural activity, damage, and removal of vegetation, deforestation, climate change and habitat fragmentation are a few of the factors that have had a crucial impact on bee populations.

As British Columbia becomes warmer in the summer months, many of the 450 different types of bees in BC begin their jobs. Mason bees, who work during the spring, are an excellent example of this. These small bees are yellow, blue, and black, and unlike other bees, the males do not have a stinger – only the females do. On the other hand, honeybees (who are yellow and black) work tirelessly for months and months. After spending the winter underground, bumblebees emerge for the spring to pollinate. Unfortunately, all three of these helpers are declining due to ever-expanding agriculture and the use of chemicals.

Eager to work in all types of weather (including rain), mason bees are diligent workers – only a few female mason bees are needed to pollinate an apple tree. These non-threatening bees are wonderful helpers in the garden – but their numbers are dwindling. Providing housing for mason bees is one easy way to help; wild mason bees typically use holes made by woodpeckers or insects to lay their eggs. Man-made nesting spots such as wood with holes, paper towel rolls, and paper straws are great options for mason bees. In return, the mason bees will pollinate your garden!

Like mason bees, honeybees are also hard workers – working up to seven days a week for months on end. The use of herbicides and pesticides, as well as the genetic modification of crops, has caused honeybee colonies to collapse. Luckily, there are several ways we can support honeybees. Planting bee-friendly plants such as asters, sunflowers, foxgloves, onions, shallots, and even willow trees will produce nectar and pollen – which honeybees need. Shopping locally can also help bees! Buying honey that is locally sourced will not only benefit local beekeepers, but local honey is also less likely to be modified for longer shelf life.

Just like honeybees, bumblebees use nectar and pollen from flowers for both energy and protein. Unfortunately, bumblebee numbers are going down. Planting flowers that are native to British Columbia in our backyards (such as false azaleas, pacific dogwoods, or yarrows) will aid bumblebees since they have evolved together. In bumblebee populations, queens are the only ones out of their colonies that survive past autumn – so they must make it through the winter. Queens hibernate in small holes in the ground, which means they are at risk of mowers. 

Here are tips to help protect and build your wild bee sanctuary

  • Plant bee-friendly native plants and flowers in your yard and garden. Plants provide excellent sources of nectar and pollen that bees need to survive.
  • Avoid using pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides on plants in your garden. Plants can become contaminated and cause harm to the bees.
  • Avoid weeding your garden. Plants like dandelions are an excellent food source for bees.
  • Provide water for bees and other wildlife who need fresh water to drink.
  • Offer nesting spots for bee populations. Solitary nesting bees prefer tunnels in the ground to lay their eggs.

Protecting bees is something we can all do. Whether it is making nests, planting bee-friendly flowers, shopping ethically, or mowing less, we can all do our part in saving bees.

If you come across disturbed bee nests or have questions about bees in your local community, please contact our Support Centre for assistance or learn more here.

Help Support Local Bee Populations Today!

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