Pollinator Week: BC Bees & Wanna-bees
A happy bumble bee enjoying the offerings of a camas / kwetlal flower
A couple of months ago, Kate and I officially became 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 managed to catch on camera around the Hill last year. 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:
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
Yet another variety of bumble bee enjoying Spanish bluebells – a beautiful, but potentially problematic introduced flower
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)
Other pollinating insects
And last but certainly not least, the extremely cute woodland skipper also plays a role in pollination
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.