Thursday, September 22, 2016

Protecting Our Native Bees and Other Pollinators: What we Can do to Help.

The evidence is clear that many native wild pollinators are declining. That wouldn’t be a big deal, if commercial honeybees could pick up the slack. They can’t. Managed honey bee colonies supplement the work of natural wild pollinators, not the other way around. In a study of 41 different crop systems worldwide, honeybees only increased yield in 14 percent of the crops. Who did all the pollination? Native bees and other insects. Gwen Pearson, Your worrying about the wrong bees.

All pollinators are in trouble, not just honeybees. And while honeybees get most of the credit, native bees and other pollinators are actually the workforce of the pollinating world, doing the bulk of the chores.

Bumblebee on nectaring on a scabious plant by Carmel Mothersill
According to Bee City Canada, bees are often considered to be the most important animal pollinator for a number of reasons, including that they are the only pollinator that rely solely on flowers for all their nutritional needs, obtaining their protein from pollen and carbohydrates from nectar.

Being fuzzy and electrostatically charged, makes bees particularly effective at carrying pollen.
Bee City Canada also points out that bees are flower-constant: they like to work one kind of flower at a time. So "a bee that has started to gather nectar from apple blossoms will continue to gather nectar from apple blossoms until that period of foraging  has ended," helping to ensure the cross-pollination of plants.

Writer, Gwen Pearson reports in 'Native Bees Increase Blueberry Crop Yields' (Wired, 2015) that research looking at the individual efficiency of different bee species found small, native bees were highly efficient pollinators; their visits resulting in nearly twice as many seeds as honey bees. "They also aren’t as wimpy as honey bees, which only like to forage in nice sunny weather," Pearson writes. From the research, Pearson quotes:
“A perfect bee would be super abundant, work under all weather conditions, and handle pollen efficiently. A perfect bee also doesn’t exist,” said Dr. Burrack. “We wondered if all these different bees, working together, can fill in the gaps and function as a perfect bee community.” Essentially, each bee species is complimentary.
Native bees deserve more of our attention. Thankfully, there is a lot we can do to help protect our native bees and other pollinators.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, join us to learn about the what native pollinators do for us, the challenges they face, including the harm honeybees can cause to native pollen bees in urban areas (including spreading disease and competing for limited resources) and how we can help by building a habitat corridor of native plants. We will also learn about the challenges of urban beekeeping.

Speaker include: Research, Scott MacIvor (University of Toronto).  Peter Kevan (University of Guelph, Environmental Biology). Local Hamilton Beekeeper, Michelle Ordyniec.

Wednesday, Nov. 2nd.
The Spectator Building
44 Frid St.
7-9pm

Get your FREE tickets here.

For more information, contact Beatrice at bekoko@environmenthamilton.org