Pollinator Week: BC Bees & Wanna-bees
A happy bumble bee enjoying the offerings of a camas / kwetlal flower
A couple of years ago, Kate and I began our journey towards becoming certified Pollinator Stewards thanks to Island Pollinator Initiative's wonderful webinar series. The first session enlightened us about the importance of pollinators to food production and biodiversity, with a special focus on BC's native bees.
A few takeaways:
- There are over 450 native bee species here in BC, most of which are solitary (don't live in hives), don't sting, and live underground.
- Nearly 2/3 of all plants depend upon pollinators such as bees to propagate themselves (having developed a symbiotic relationship across the course of over a hundred million years), and 1/3 of our food crops reach our mouths thanks to these hard-working insects.
- Our native bee populations are in decline in large part due to habitat loss, pesticide use, disease, and climate change. Gardening with pollinators in mind is a powerful act of supporting the health of not only bees, but the ecosystems which we all ultimately depend upon.
- Contrary to popular misconception, honeybees are neither native nor in decline. That being said, honeybees do face a number of health threats and play an important role in agricultural pollination (beyond honey). On the other hand, they can also negatively impact native bee populations.
Here's a look at a handful of the many pollinating insects which we've managed to catch on camera around the Hill since then. Bee species are very hard to identify definitively with photos, so I'll try my best to distinguish them broadly by group until I learn otherwise:
An as-yet unidentified bumble bee on a harebell flower
A rather small bee (perhaps a sweat bee?) enjoying blooming camas
A happy bumble bee frolics in a field of seablush
A shiny sweat bee peruses the offerings of a baldhip rose flower
While another tiny (sweat?) bee takes a break on a patch of moss
We love lavender and this fluffy bumble bee does too!
A couple of bumble bees investigating the foxgloves – an introduced plant which seems to be currently listed as abundant but not invasive in BC
Check out the sumptuous pollen basket on this bumble bee! Bees love cotoneaster flowers, but we're considering replacing this shrub due to its invasive potential
Yet another variety of bumble bee enjoying Spanish bluebells – a beautiful, but potentially problematic introduced flower
bumble bee (this fuzzy hoverfly fooled me! The giant eyes and tiny antennae are clues to its true identity) gathering pollen from a Nootka rose
Another variety of hoverfly basking in the sun
Our fuzzy friend Bombylius diving into purple rock cress – an introduced, but seemingly not invasive perennial
Though they get a bad rap, wasps are also important pollinators. This ichneumon wasp may look scary, but is not aggressive and is harmless to humans (that long needle at its rear is not a stinger – it's called an ovipositor and is used to lay eggs)
Not to be outdone, butterflies are another very important group of pollinators which also happen to be dazzlingly beautiful in their variety.
A Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly enjoying the blissfully-fragrant mock orange
A rare sighting. This beautiful female Propertius Duskywing is sadly an endangered species due to the loss of Garry oak habitat.
A Western Elfin investigates a trillium flower. These small butterflies are often found flitting around near arbutus and salal.
A Spring Azure gets photobombed while posing on a camas leaf. Another very small butterfly which is easy to miss, but a cheerful sign of spring's arrival.
And last but certainly not least, the extremely cute woodland skipper also plays a role in pollination – spotted here on a lilac leaf.
We're gradually incorporating a more diverse range of pollinator-friendly plants into the landscape here as we continue to learn more about these amazing insects' food and habitat needs. You can follow along with our pollinator gardening research through our growing Are.na collection.