Friday, June 26, 2015

Pollinator Paradise Project Goes to School!

Report from the front lines! Our summer intern Kaelyn writes:

Kids made bee boxes
Members of the Hamilton Naturalist Club and Environment Hamilton have been visiting schools in the community to teach kids about the importance of pollinators.

During our visit to Queen Victoria School we introduced the students to native pollinators – bees especially – and their role in the community.

Together we made bee boxes for nesting solitary bees, later the students were able to decorate the boxes in their groups so they could be placed around the city.
Once the bee boxes were complete, the classes were ready to create their very own pollinator patch! The existing plants were removed from the edge of the school yard to make way for more brightly coloured, pollinator friendly, native plants such as asters and geranium.

This year’s sixth grade classes were pioneers for future pollinator patches. Upcoming sixth grade classes will maintain the current space as well as possibly adding new plants to increase biodiversity and provide more food for native pollinators.

These past few months and this experience has been wonderful. [I’m] really stoked that we got to garden and make houses for our local pollinators because without them we’re nothing”
-          Sheridan D.

    “Pollinators help the earth, and news flash we need the earth – no earth no us.” – Ayrek

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It's a journey of discovery

"We are stewards of the land, on a journey of discovery."
 Gerten Basom
Gerten Basom is the artist behind the new signage plaques, to mark our pollinator patch locations across the city. Gerten combines her love of nature and her passion for art to create images that further her message: that we don't own the land; we are caretakers of it. I chatted with Gerten a few weeks ago about her journey to reaching this awareness.
Daughter of German immigrants, Gerten was born and raised in a rural area of Peterborough. Her mother hand planted 2000 seedlings in her early 20’s, of mixed pine, spruce and hemlock on what was then barren land. “56 years later, it's become a forest. We grew up with that, we were very much aware of the environment around us," Gerten reminisces. And "like typical Germans," Gerten describes her family as always being out on the trails, hiking the Kawartha territories, camping at the lakes.
"We became deeply acquainted with the land," she says. "Being outdoors was who we were--exploring ponds, fields, building forts. It was all one big adventure."

At school, the elementary school principal, an "outdoors" guy and biologist, furthered the children's understanding and appreciation of nature. He would read Farley Mowat novels to his  students; "That shapes you at that age," Gerten reflects.
Her visual arts practice has always been there, she says, that journey beginning with a dynamic grade 5 art teacher. What followed was a rather circuitous route, from York University (where the message was to "think outside the box,") and then a decade later, Dundas Valley school of Arts, Ontario College of Art, and finally, at home at McMaster University.

I ask Gerten, why the reconnect to art ten years later?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Victoria Park, Strathcona! Breaking Ground and celebrating the Pollinators Paradise Project (June 13).

Planting a pollinator patch along the Pipeline Trail

Kaelyn  Bumelis is the summer intern, assisting the Pollinator Paradise Project for the next couple months. She was out in the field this past Saturday (June 6th), getting her hands dirty, planting native flowers along a small segment of the Crown Point’s Pipeline trail.

Here’s what she reports about the plant-in:

Saturday was full of fun and lots of sunshine as the volunteers helped realize the vision for the Pollinator Paradise Project. Whether you were a skilled gardener or green behind the ears, the Pipeline trail “plant-in” was an opportunity for people of all ages to come out and help create a sanctuary for  pollinators and a nice place for the people of the Crown Point community to escape to.
Organized in partnership with the Crown Point Garden Club (pipeline planning team), this native plant garden, located between Edgemont and Park Row North, will also increase biodiversity in the area and provide food for native pollinators, like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other beneficial insects.

Numerous different native plant species including Asters, Mountain mint, Goldenrod, Wild strawberry, Ox-eye, Coreopsis were planted in a beautiful display with room for a pathway through the garden.
New connections were made and existing ones strengthened. We spoke with trail neighbours and one resident even offered to donate more plants. Delicious apples and macaroons were shared!
All in all, the event scheduled for 100 in 1 day (a global festival of civic engagement) was a great time. I enjoyed meeting many of the community minded people who came out to help and who shared their experiences with me.

Next steps:

The Pollinator Paradise Project is working on signage for the location.
Some next steps for the garden club will be establishing a schedule for maintenance of the garden and acquiring more plants. City of Hamilton will be putting a bench at the site, across the trail in the shade of the trees, so people can sit and enjoy the sight of the pollinator paradise. The garden club also plans to revitalize the small triangle on Edgemont.
The Pipeline Trail planning team are  continuing to work with the City on the Pipeline Trail Master Plan, and community consultation is ongoing through the summer.
Pipeline Trail Planning Team member, Elizabeth Seidl urges residents and trail users to get involved in the planning process: “Feedback and community engagement is critical in planning for the trail as the plan will affect several neighbourhoods.”
In the middle of the design phase, “this is the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions.”
The Master Plan proposes changes to intersections and suggests improvements to enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety, which can affect traffic patterns and street parking.
The next public meeting is Thursday, June 25 at 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Perkins Centre. The final presentation is Saturday, September 19 at 2 - 4 pm at the Steam Museum. To see what has been presented so far, visit
Contact Elizabeth Seidl  for more information:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hamilton Urban Beekeepers

The air was warm that mid-spring afternoon, and although the likelihood of rain was high, we weren't too concerned--the rain would hold off for our visit to the beehives.
Juby and I (Beatrice), accompanied by Amina Suhrwardy on her bike, met up with Brandi Lee Macdonald, urban beekeeper and instigator of the OPIRG McMaster working group for the Urban Bee Keepers (HUB). The other partner to the project is McMaster Beekeeping Initiative, that have helped establish  the hives on the northwest side of campus.

Created to respond to the decline and colony collapse, HUB offers
 hands-on workshops for the community on responsible urban beekeeping and organize field trips to local apiaries. HUB partners with academic departments to offer an experiential component to students conducting research on honeybee colonies
They also sell honey! Most delicious on lightly toasted bread, with a dab of butter.

I was a little nervous about being stung, but Brandi had Juby and myself, well suited up to face the two hives.
Brandi directed us to come in from behind the hives, since the front of the hive is directly in their flight path. "Approaching the hive from the front, or standing in front of it puts you in their flightpath and in their way as they zip in and out of the hive," she explained.

It was astounding to hear that bees have facial recognition, that is, they are able to recognize individual human faces! We learned that in winter, there are around 10,000 bees per hive (the Queen bee stops laying eggs in winter) but at peak season, each hive has over 80,000 bees. Each hive can produce up to 80 to 120 pounds of honey.

The Queen lays around 1000 eggs a day, lives for 2-3 seasons and peaks in the summer.
"Bees are curious," Brandi shared with us. "You can tell what their temperament is. These are sweet natured."
She approached them with smoke, talking softly to them: "Smoke calms them down," she explained. Pausing to listen, "You can tell by the sound they make what mood they are in."

The hives are made from Langstroth style wooden hive bodies and frames, and wrapped with black corrugated plastic. Even in winter, they stay nice and cozy, at 30 degrees in temperature, the heat being generated by the bees' bodies (metabolic heat) as they cluster in a big ball.

Brandi delighted us by removing the frames so that we could get a first hand view of the bees in action. The frames inside the hive are where the honeybees draw wax comb for storing honey and pollen, and rearing their brood.

The first hive was very active, the bees sprung off, whizzing around our well protected heads! The second hive was far more sleepy.

It was also interesting to see the different colouring of the bees, some black, dark brown and others yellow and orange--a reflection of their genetic diversity in the hive since the queen mates with multiple drones on her mating flight, so there is a healthy genetic mix in the hive population.

We learned that the colour of the pollen also varies. The bees bring in pollen from different flowering plants (which are different colours), as they are in bloom throughout the season. We observed white pollen from nearby willow trees opening up on Coldwater Creek, and a dark, indigo-coloured pollen from some variety of Phacelia.

We discussed the possibility of offering a tour of the beehives in partnership with the Pollinator Paradise Project, likely to happen in upcoming weeks, so please stay tuned.

As we ended our visit, the racks of bees securely back in the hives, the sky opened up and we made a dash to the bus stop, Amina pedalling away swiftly and Brandi dashing to her car!

Check out the Hamilton Urban Beekeepers.

The Art department had students in the environmental art program create artful bee hotels from recycled materials to attract native bees (as opposed to honey bees, which are European). Here are some examples of what they came up with. Love them!