Saving Bees with Let it Bee

Whether it’s one circling your freezie on a hot day, creating a menacing looking hive in your backyard, or interrupting Obama’s book reading, bees have had a long standing bad rap for being warm weather pests. Before flailing your arms at the next sight of a bumblebee though, take a moment to learn a bit about these small hard workers and how important they really are!  These hard working ladies — all worker bees are female — are able to visit over 5,000 flowers in a single day, and deserve some recognition for pollinating fruits and vegetables ranging from apples to pumpkins to okra. Unfortunately, as you’ve probably been hearing over the past few years, bee populations are rapidly declining (yes, this is a bad thing). However, more and more bee enthusiasts, apiaries, and urban beekeepers are demanding changes and spearheading initiatives to combat the fall. Capture For those who don’t know what’s behind the alarming loss of bees, the term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) may ring a bell. CCD is a multi-faceted phenomenon, in which the majority of worker bees leave their colony, abandoning the queen bee and immature bees, causing a literal collapse in the colony. The bees are simply disappearing. As two thirds of food crops depend on pollination by Western honey bees, this phenomenon leads to major economic losses. Bee pollination is estimated to be worth $37  – $91 billion annually; losing them then, greatly impacts food production, and affects a countless number of ecosystems.
 Although there is no single cause of CCD, it has been directly linked to conventional agricultural practices, destruction of natural habitats, and the widespread use of pesticides (neonicotinoids, in particular). Between 2007 and 2013, more than 10 million beehives have been lost to CCD. Sounds a bit like the second coming of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, right? But before you start getting too doomsday-esque, we have good news! Things are changing. We recently discovered the Friends of the Earth Canada “Let It Bee” campaign, part of “The Bee Cause” – and it’s got us pretty excited! Currently in its first stage, Let It Bee calls for “drastic changes in commercial landscaping and domestic gardening”, aiming to create safe habitats for wild bee populations by encouraging Canadian citizens to plant “Bee & Bee’s” in their yard or balcony. Canada has over 800 species of wild native bees (40 of which are bumble bees), and as a “Bee & Bee” host you may get over 50 different types in backyard! IMG_20160620_191028The campaign provides 3 simple actions to ensuring a safe bee space that may actually ease up your existing gardening routines (such as leaving sunny areas of ground mulch-free so they can burrow, or providing “homes” by leaving old stems, sticks and decaying wood). Furthermore, Let It Bee encourages citizen scientists to participate in the first annual Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count between June 1st – August 15th to help scientists and researchers gather information on distribution and population trends. By signing the “Let It Bee” pledge, supporters promise to create safe spaces for bees, and tackle all those nasty factors causing CCD.
Let It Bee is just one of many initiatives working to save our bees in Ontario — and there are countless ways you can help too!
  • Plant a bee friendly window box or garden; think borage, blueberries, lavender and cornflowers!
  • Reduce the amount of pesticides you use in your own green spaces
  • Bee on the lookout for locally grown, naturally or organically raised fruits, veggies and honey
  • Build a bee house or a bee bath
Next time you see a bee, keep calm and give it a little thank you. In other words, Let It Bee.
Further reading: Some other bee supporting initiatives that worth looking into are Alvéole, the Toronto Botanical Garden Beekeeping Series, and the Ontario Beekeepers Association.
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