Friday, April 29, 2016

Join Me Tomorrow at Figaro's Garden: The Best Little Garden Shop in Vancouver!

This will be a great chance for you to ask me all your specific bee gardening questions and find out about the best plants to grow for bees in the Lower Mainland. And to buy some of those plants!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Sources Guide from Victory Gardens for Bees

 For those of you who have purchased my book, you may have seen the Sources pages at the back of the book. I wanted to publish this online for everyone so it's easy to follow the links. Also, some of the text needed to be edited out, so here's my full list of sources. I will continue to update this list.

Inspiring and Useful Websites:

Beyond Pesticides
Check out the Bee Protective Habitat Guide.

Bug Squad: Happenings in the Insect World
Exceptional photos of bees and informative blog posts by Kathy Keatley Garvey, communications specialist at the University of California (Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources).

The most reliable site for identifying North American Bees (north of Mexico).

Environmental Youth Alliance
A fantastic model of youth-based environmental action and education based in Vancouver. If you live in Vancouver, consider becoming a part of their citizen science program, and learn how to identify and monitor bees.

Illinois Wildflowers
The most informative and user friendly website on native North American plants for bees, created by Dr. John Hilty.

James Wong: A Scientist’s Guide to Awesome Things to Grow
The most charismatic ethnobotanist I’ve ever witnessed, James Wong is a gardening rock star.

Feed the Bees
A community-based initiative between Earthwise and the Delta Chamber of Commerce with useful links for farming or gardening, and even golf courses for bees.

Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm
Great articles and photos and some lovely bee posters. One of my favorite resources for teaching.

Seeds of Diversity
Canada’s heritage seed program.

The Pollinator Garden: About plants, pollinating insects and gardening
U.K. Gardener Marc Carlton’s web site explains the basics on gardening for pollinators.

The Great Sunflower Project
An exciting citizen science project with excellent bee ID resources for citizen scientists.

Hartley Botanic: DIY Bumblebee Nest
This is a great idea for making a bumblebee nesting site for your garden. Just think about protecting it from digging predators such as raccoons and skunks.

Invasive Species Centre
Information on the invasive species that are a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem health. Check the specialists on invasive species in your bioregion.

The David Suzuki Foundation: Pollinators feed us. Let’s protect them.
This page has proactive strategies for banning pesticides that harm pollinators and planting milkweed for monarchs and bees.  There also two downloadable pamphlets: A Toronto Plant Guide for Attracting Pollinators and A Guide to Toronto’s Pollinators.

UC Berkely Urban Bee Lab
Packed with helpful resources and cute photos of bees!

The Xerces Society
As the most reliable source of information on best practices for bees, the Xerces Foundation has many online and printed resources on pollinator conservation for North America. Look for resources created specifically for your bioregion.

Helpful Blogs:

Bug Eric

An amiable entomologist, with knowledge of a wide range of insects.

Charismatic Minifauna:

I am a huge fan of Gwen Pearson’s funny and smart writing.

Sean McCann creates a blog that will also make you appreciate the beauty of bees, wasps, ants, spiders and more.

 The Prairie Ecologist
Chris Holzer’s blog on prairie restoration features his stunning photography.

Honey Bee Suite
A well-written and researched blog by Rusty Burlew, a beekeeper concerned with honeybee health and native bee conservation.

Women Who Run with the Bees: Inspirations from Artists
Aganetha Dyck: RCA
The website of Governor General Award-winning Manitoba artist Aganetha Dyck, a longtime collaborator with honeybees.

Cameron Cartiere and Nancy Holmes: Border Free Bees
A public art project lead by Dr. Cameron Cartiere and Nancy Holmes raising the awareness of the plight of wild pollinators and empowering communities to engage in solutions for habitat loss.

 jasna guy: with/drawing and . . .
Exceptional art, writing and photography by a bee-centric artist!

 Rebecca Chesney
Look for more information and photos of the meadow project I’m blue, you’re yellow from this UK-based artist.

Sarah Bergmann
Artist Sarah Bergmann created the original Pollinator Pathway in Seattle and hopes it will become a model for creating habitat in cities across America.

Sarah Peebles
Canadian artist Sarah Peebles’s website is packed with fascinating information on the artist’s work inspired by native bees.

Seed Companies

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
The catalogues are packed with luscious eye candy for gardeners, offering some really interesting heritage seeds.

Beauty Beyond Belief Seed
I have had great luck with seeds from this company and this is where we bought the seeds for our promo packs. They also have some cool pollinator stickers for kids.

Prairie Moon Nursery
Great source of information for growing native North American plants.

Richter’s Herbs
Canada’s most extensive retailer of herbs, with an informative website.

Salt Spring Seeds
Small company created by seed-saving activist Dan Jason. A good selection of unusual herbs attractive to bees.

A good source for California wildflower seeds.

West Coast Seeds
Company based in B.C. with an informative web site and resident bee expert Brian Campbell.

Wildflower Farm
Ontario-based wildflower company (owned by the author of Taming Wildflowers, Miriam Golderger), with a helpful seed selector tool.

Online Publications
Available at, along with other valuable resources for eco-farming and pollinator-friendly gardening.

 Available at

Available at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (

Available at the Ontario Horticultural Organization (, 2010.

Useful and Inspirational Books

1) Beresford Kroeger, Diana.Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest. University of Michigan, 2003.

All of Diana Beresford Kroeger’s books are a wealth of in-depth information on the benefits of plants for humans and for the planet.

Fascinating macro photos of pinned specimens and information bee nerds will love.

3) Early, Jeremy. My Side of the Fence: The Natural History of a Surrey Garden. Surrey: Jeremy Early, 2013.

 An inspiring read for those who love the backyard nature study.

4) Frankie, Gordon W. et al. California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists. Berkeley: Heyday, 2014.

 With climate change, we'll be looking to California for more bee plants that are drought tolerant.

5) Gardiner, Mary M. Good. GardenBugs: Everything You Need to Know About Beneficial Predatory Insects. Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books, 2015.

 A good resource for the gardener or the bug nerd in your family.

A practical and inspiring guide for growing North American wildflowers.

8) Grissell, Eric. Bees, Wasps, and Ants: TheIndispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2010.

Eric Grissell is an entomologist who loves to garden. He calls himself a “Darwinian Victory Gardener”, and says that anything that survives in the harsh climate of garden in Eastern Arizona is considered a victory. These are two essential books for the bee gardener’s library. 

10) Buchmann, Stephen L., andNabhan, Gary Paul. The Forgotten Pollinators. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1996.

This was the gateway book that got me started on advocating for native pollinators. Anything written by either of these authors is worth reading.

11) Holm, Heather. Pollinators ofNative Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insectswith Native Plants. Pollination Press LLC, Minnesota, 2014.

This book is especially good for people who want a resource to take on bee safaris and hiking trips.

12) Mader, Eric et al. Attracting Native Pollinators:Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies: The Xerces Society Guide. North Adams, Storey Publishing, 2011.

One of many great guides produced by Xerces.

13) Packer, Laurence. Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are At Risk and How We Can Save them. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2010.

Essential reading on the subject of saving the bees by a Canadian bee scientist who sees the big picture.

16) Wilson, Joseph S., and Olivia Messinger Carril. The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015.

This is a fantastic companion book to Victory Gardens with Bees featuring many photographs of North American bees and their foraging and nesting habits.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tupper Biology Trip to UBC Farm

Baby onions hardening off, given some tough love before they are planted out in the field.

 A field of kale thrumming with bumblebees.

It's intriguing that there is a species of bumblebee at UBC Farm with this bald patch on their thorax. You'll see a picture of one in my book.

A mason bee house completely full. All the holes are plugged with clay. Each tunnel contains female and male bees.

A bumblebee queen having a beauty sleep with her head inside a cozy comfrey flower. How cute is that!?

A nectar robber caught in the act.

 She uses her tounge like a straw to sip the nectar through holes bees chewed in the corolla.

This large bee probably could sip the way she's supposed to, hanging upside down under the flower, but she is opportunistic, saving valuable energy by simply robbing the nectar. She's got babies to feed! And comfrey refills with nectar every 15 minutes or so. So there's a lot to go around.

 This bee is sticking her head right into the blueberry flower to sip nectar. I noticed some of the bumblebees were more noisy than others, which means they were buzz-pollinating the blueberries, shaking the pollen out of the stamens by hitting a certain frequency. This makes them better at pollinating blueberries than honeybees. Honeybees don't even like blueberry flowers and the pollen is low in nutrition to them. These bumblebees, however, evolved with the blueberries and the pollen is good food for their brood.

An intriguing tree in the forest surrounding the farm. The forest adds to the biodiversity of life on the farm and provides a sheltered environment for growing crops. The forest edge is a hot spot for biodiversity of flora and fauna.

 Usually maple blossoms are high up in the trees and we can't see them. They look almost finished for the season and are actually a really important bee tree.

These trailing blackberries are the ones native to BC. There are invasive Himalayan blackberries on the farm, but they are carefully managed.

Poached Egg Flower Brings in the Wee Bees

 These clove currants have beautiful flowers with deep nectaries.

The grade one worker bees find a centipede, but it's very hard to photograph. You can just see it slipping around the edge of the shovel.

The poached egg flowers are bringing in the bees. This is the third year this cover crop has seeded itself. Fantastic! Let's plant more of this flower: Limnanthes douglasii. Honey from this plant tastes like marshmallows.

And I spotted a small red cuckoo bee really tucking in to the nectar. These bees do not collect pollen because they trick other bees into feeding their babies. Can you see the nectar guides in the flower? I'd love to see a photo of this flower in UV light. I bet the nectar guides are even more prominent and the center of the flower appears quite dark in comparison to the outer edges of the petals.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What's Blooming in Vancouver in the Last Week of April?

Forget-me-nots . . .

apples . . .

bay laurel,

horse chestnut . . .

 hawthorn . . .

 cotoneaster . . .

holly . . .

milk thistle . . .

bleeding hearts, ramps . . .

columbines . . .

 geraniums from Daphne's yard, rescued by neighbors to keep her memory alive . . .

 borage volunteers from plants I sowed years ago . . .

and cerinthe I sowed while Milana was still alive, blooming the day I discovered her obituary. From now on they will always remind me of her.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Earth Day at Sexsmith Elementary: Exploring Pollinators with Activity Stations

We had a rollicking good time on Earth Day at Sexsmith Elementary with activity stations in the gym. Special thanks go to Cheryl Davidson for organizing such a special event. The kids had so much fun celebrating bees and other pollinators.

These bee flags we made with grade two students in our ArtStarts residency.

These cyanotype flags were made by grade 6 students in our ArtStarts residency.

Hmm, actually only the grapes and corn are wind pollinated. All of the other foods in this chart rely on insects (especially bees) to produce seeds.