Cindy's blog...July 26, 2017 Canadians are "bee-ing" proactive

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Calstone has a bee pollinator!! It is not something we intentionally built but the plants in the pond area have become a butterfly and bee pollinator. I have written blogs on the diminishing bee population and the crisis this causes in our food production, but there is good news. Canadians are paying huge attention to pollinator-friendly crops, flowers and weeds, in everything from fields to backyard gardens and public spaces. And, it is making a difference in honeybees’ lives. The movement is to ban the harmful pesticides that kill bees, but in the meantime, this is just a few of the steps Canada is taking to keep the bee population healthy.

Canadians everywhere are rolling up their sleeves to nurture the insects that keep us fed through pollination. It’s said that one in every three bites of food we consume is thanks to pollinators.

“It’s great that people are getting involved,” says professor Nigel Raine, who holds the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation at the University of Guelph. “The health of our pollinators is essential for sustainable agriculture and supporting natural ecosystems.”

For example, in urban areas, environmental programs such as Bees Matter are equipping gardeners with helpful varieties of plants for pollinators.

On Canadian farms, almost 800,000 honeybee colonies are in active duty this year. That’s about 10 per cent more than in 2016, which was another record year. In fact, the number of hives have been climbing since the late 1990s.

More than 700 Canadian farmers and ranchers participate in a voluntary program called ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services). It helps fund small-scale ecological projects for clean water, air and pollinator-friendly biodiversity. ALUS is recruiting new participants now and hopes to have 10,000 hectares of farmland in the program by 2018.

Patches of habitat are being established across Toronto neighborhoods to help create a corridor for butterflies and bees.

They are part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s network of butterfly-friendly gardens and wildflower-filled canoes in parks. The Butterflyway Project is an effort to re-imagine neighbourhoods as “highways of habitat” for local pollinating critters.

One of those canoes sits at the corner of Barton Ave. and Crawford St., in Christie Pits Park. It holds about two dozen native plant species, and it’s one of about 40 canoes across the city.

“The intent of butterflyway project is to build highways of habitats for butterflies,” Butterflyway Project manager Jode Roberts said. “A corridor for bees and butterflies to move through any neighborhoods.”

Toronto is home to about 360 species of bees and 112 species of butterflies, which help maintain a balanced ecosystem and contribute to the circle of life.

Business owners on Queen St. W. are taking the sting out of drab urban living with a new project to make Toronto’s concrete jungle a bit more bee-friendly.

Toronto, with support from city council, has been proclaimed the country’s first “Bee City” by Bee City Canada, a group of experts and community residents who promote pollinators and healthy habitats. Applied for with the approval of city council, the title signaled a commitment to protect endangered bee populations.

Downtown Toronto is doing it’s part. The West Queen West Business Improvement Area has partnered with a landscape company to build birdhouse-style homes for helpful pollinators in one of the city’s busiest neighbourhoods.

“They’re Bee Hotels. It’s just so cool,” said BIA Executive Director Rob Sysak, who’s been droning on with bee-related wordplay for days. “It’s bee-utiful. It’s un-bee-lievable. I’m probably driving everyone around me crazy but I haven’t stopped.”

“The hotels are made of reclaimed wood, using pallets we’ve taken from the neighbourhood,” said Restorative Landscapes owner Jake Harding, who designed the hotels with help from a local artist.

The crevices in and around the stalks and logs are ideal for many types of so-called “solitary bees” — ones that don’t make honey or live in a hive with a colony. There are dozens of solitary bees native to Ontario, said Harding.

“By adding some more of these crops and some sort of refuge for them among the concrete, we’ll hopefully attract more of them back.”

The planters — the majority of which are painted with bright designs and socially-conscious messages — are flush with foliage, adding a burst of colour to the gray and dusty street.

“We don’t have a lot of space on our sidewalks on Queen,” said Sysak. “But we want to make the place walkable, livable.”

Everyone can have their own bee pollinator. For $75 a month, Alvéole provides a basic package of services that include setting up the hive and bi-monthly check-ups. In September, they extract the honey and put it in jars. They also wrap the hive to protect the occupants through winter.

Founded by three friends, Alvéole has operations in Montreal, Quebec City and now Toronto. The hundreds of hives they’ve installed are filled with bees from Ontario breeders.

I am happy that Calstone is contributing to bee health.  All of this enthusiasm to install hives gives us hope for bees and the future of our food production.  It is rewarding to see that Canadians listened when a crisis loomed. Keep an eye out for the bee hotels or next time you are in a Toronto hotel, ask to see their roof-I guarantee there are hives up there!.

This is the bee hotel on the roof of the Royal York

Neighbourhood Bee keeping 101

  • About 300 species of bees call Toronto home.
  • About 10,000 honey bees form a starter colony with the hive growing to 50,000 bees at season’s peak.
  • Just 10 or 15 per cent of a honeybee colony flies out to forage for pollen and nectar inside a 5 kilometre radius, with the majority of the bees working inside the hive.
  • A colony will produce about 10 kilograms of honey in the first year.
  • New keepers-to-be are advised to talk to neighbours about what to expect. Anyone with an allergy to stings, especially, needs to be comfortable with the idea.
  • Stay calm and move slowly around bees.