Birds do it, bees do it…

Even educated humans do it, but they’re not very good at it; the “it” is pollination.

Even educated humans do it, but they’re not very good at it; the “it” is pollination, and animals – particularly insects – are the pros in the field.

Last Tuesday, October 25, nearly every seat in the seniors hall was filled for the presentation on pollinators by entomologist and bee lover Lynn Westcott.

She told the crowd that it is mainly bees, the most efficient and effective pollinators, who are responsible for pollination that makes one third of the human food supply flourish. A current estimate of the dollar value of their contribution puts the amount at nearly $ 2.5 billion each year. Busy little bees indeed!

But honeybees, foreigners introduced some time during European contact with the Americas, aren’t the only ones out there busily buzzing around.

Here in B.C., we have a vast variety of bees with the number of species estimated around 450. They come in all kinds and colours, sizes and social arrangements too.

There are social bees like honey bees and bumble bees who live in larger groups, but there are also solitary bees like the lesser known leafcutter, mining, small carpenter and cuckoo bees.

Their colours and sizes are as diverse as their behaviours. Little black sweat bees are so named because they collect the salt they need from sweaty animals, such as humans on the beach or in the garden. Mining bees, who make up the greatest number of species in B.C., nest in the ground. Their nests may become the target for another kind of bee, the Cuckoo, who doesn’t bother collecting pollen herself, and instead lays her fast-developing eggs in the nest of other bees. Many bees do not flaunt the stereotypical black and yellow stripes. Some small carpenter bees, for instance, are a hot metallic green and are often mistaken for flies.

Westcott encouraged everyone to invite these productive pollinators into their gardens and orchards, and directed people to the website xerces.org for tips and tricks to attract more bees.

Enticing bees into your garden can be as easy as drilling holes in an old stump, or leaving dead hydrangea or weigela branches for the bees to make their homes in. If you want bees, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

Bees nest comfortably in wild areas that are free of herbicides and pesticides near a water source that has something for them to land on floating in it. Having plants that bloom all season long will also lure bees, who don’t care if the flowers are dandelions or roses.

At the end of the night, the FWCP’s Angus Glass awarded door prizes, with the highlight being a sizeable block of wood one lucky couple took home which could become either bee housing, or a Yule log to burn for the duration of the Christmas holidays.

 

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