As Canadians across the country start gearing up for gardening season, environmental justice group Friends of the Earth Canada ramps up its “Let It Bee” campaign aimed at promoting awareness about the global decline in bee populations and urging citizens to adopt bee-friendly gardening and landscaping practices. All in the hope to save Canada’s bees.
“Canada is home to about 800 confirmed species of bees,” says the group, with Southern Ontario representing one of Canada’s three “biodiversity hotspots,” containing the greatest diversity of bee species.
With the support of Ontario Power Generation, the Let It Bee campaign asks Canadians to “Create your own Bee & Bee” by making lawns and gardens amenable to bee habitation -by planting a variety of flowers and plants including native plants and grasses for the bees to nest in, by cutting down on sprinkler irrigation (which alters visual landmarks and cues for the bees) and, of course, by refraining from using pesticides or planting flowers or plants that have been treated with pesticides.
“We must act now to protect the diversity of wild bees,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada. “Habitat loss is just as critical in cities and towns as in the countryside. It’s time to dramatically change how we garden and landscape to make sure we protect, not kill off, wild native bees.”
The Friends of the Earth Canada campaign will be conducting a Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count between June 1 and July 15 to help bee experts track bee populations.
Due to dramatic losses and the multi-factored problem of “colony collapse disorder”, the plight of the honeybee has caught the public’s attention, with advocacy groups, bee clubs and urban backyard beehives popping up across the country. Montreal-based Alveole rents out beehives to people interested in supporting bee populations and in making a bit of their own honey to boot.
Currently hit with a huge demand for beehives, the company is opening up “honey houses” in Toronto and Quebec City to help guide people through the first steps of beekeeping. Alveole co-founder Declan Rankin Jardin says cities are prime locations for honeybees, due to more floral diversity, lack of competition from other insects and municipal cosmetic pesticide bans, but that provincial and municipal rules are overly restrictive about the placement of beehives.
The Ontario Bee Act requires that hives be placed at least 30 metres away from roadways while the Quebec law asks for 15 metres. “It’s kind of an archaic rule that doesn’t really encourage urban bee-keeping,” says Rankin Jardin. “A lot of installations can be made that are within 30 meters that are totally legitimate and wouldn’t harm bees or people.”
A recent survey of beekeepers in the United States which showed a 44 per cent loss in honey bee colonies over just the past year. Experts are still trying to determine the exact causes of the decline in numbers but evidence points to a group of factors including the varroa mite, a parasite that spreads easily between colonies, neonicitinoid pesticides and malnutrition resulting from changing land use patterns of modern agriculture.