Special thanks to Publisher of The North Island Eagle, Kathy O’Reilly. Originally printed Friday, July 5 in The North Island Eagle.

An issue that should get a little more buzz – bees!

When you sink your teeth into local island fresh produce, you have bees to thank. We don’t often think about the tiny little critters that carry the weight of our food chain on their wings, but we should.

Vancouver Island has always relied on small scale agriculture projects for food security. Unlike many places in Canada, our island’s climate allows for food production year-round. But this food production and the survival of our local agricultural farms depends heavily on stable bee populations for pollination.

Some of us have heard about our bee crisis and issues with pollination and the disappearance of our tiny friends. But even though we know it’s happening, they are so tiny for many years they seem to have escaped the view of scientific work, government funding, and general social interest.

Wacky weather, habitat loss, toxic chemicals and disease have resulted in a dramatic decline of Vancouver Island bees. As one example, in 2014 the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), identified the Western Bumblebee (a native to Vancouver Island) as threatened. And of the close to 500 other species of bees in BC, many others are also on the decline.  Having said that, there are things us humans can do to help.

To help bees, you can plant blooming native flowers like roses, sunflowers, lavender and rhododendrons (which also happens to be deer resistant). Avoid using pesticides in your backyard, particularly insecticides like neonicotinoids, which are deadly to bees.

You can create bee-friendly habitat. From wooden blocks to bamboo housing, you can find great tips online of how you can build bee houses. And like all species, bees need water. Maintaining a small bird bath gives not just the birds, but the bees, a source of water.

Despite all the negative aspects to bee decline, on a positive note, bees are being taken seriously by our provincial government. Currently, you can go to the provincial government website and find a detailed list of helpful information on wildflowers that you can plant:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/animals-and-crops/animal-production/bees/food-for-bees/bee-forage-plants

The government is also offering a FREE bee course for aspiring beekeepers (or, Apiculturists as they are known in the scientific world). You can find out more about free bee courses at:

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/animals-and-crops/animal-production/bees/bee-courses

So, bee kind to our bees and next time you sink your teeth into a local Vancouver Island apple or sprinkle some blueberries on your morning breakfast, remember it all started small and sometimes the smallest beings should get the biggest buzz.

Photo: Bryce Casavant, 2019.

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