Saturday, May 21, 2016

Let's Create A Canadian Bee Calendar!

I'll be speaking about Victory Gardens for Bees to CBC radio hosts across Canada on Monday, so here's an idea: Let's choose an official bee for each province and territory and create a Canadian Bee Calendar (#canadianbeecalendar) with photos of each bee and wildflowers to plant to support them. We'll have to make it a 13 month Calendar. We need a sponsor, so I'm throwing the challenge out to bee-loving Canadian musicians to sponsor the calendar! Then any money raised can go to making seed packets of native lupins to give out to people to plant. I'm stoked! Let's do this.

I also am adding some links below for each province I'll be speaking to on the radio for information on regional native plants and cool regional native bees. (I'll update this over the next couple of days.)

Be very careful as you buy your plants this gardening weekend. Think about how your choices affect bees. Fifty per cent of bedding plants have been treated with bee-toxic neonicatinoids. These are systemic pesticides which contaminate the whole plant and they don't wash off. Choose organic plants for your bee garden. I have only been able to find organic seeds and herbs this spring, so that's what I'm sticking with. For more information on how you can protest the use of neonics in Canada follow this link to Friends of the Earth Canada.

Starting with the bees that start pollinating a half hour before all the other bees in Canada: Newfoundland.

According to statistics provided by Canadian bee scientist Cory Sheffield, Newfoundland has 69 species of native bees. (All the provincial bee stats below have been graciously provided by Cory, who is an expert in Canadian bee taxonomy.)

A lupin native to Newfoundland is perennial lupin: Lupinus perennis.  Another cool native plant for bees is Labrador tea. Two native roses to plant for your bees are the shining rose (Rosa nitida) which prefers boggy conditions and Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) which can tolerate a wider range of conditions.

My vote for the official bee of Newfoundland is the Northern Amber Bumblebee: Bombus borealis. She is gorgeous! Half the bumblebee species in eastern North America are in decline. We've got to save these bees.

A fantastic resource on bees in Newfoundland
is A Guide to the Bees of Insular Newfoundland by Dr. Barry Hicks. Some of the plants he recommends for Newfoundland bumblebees include: wild roses, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, rhododendron, sunflowers, fireweed, and dandelions.

Moving on to Toronto, Ontario

According to Cory Sheffield, there are 415 species of native bees in Ontario. 

According to bee scientist Laurence Packer there are more than 360 species of bees in Toronto.

Check out this helpful article in the Globe and Mail about declaring Toronto a Canadian "Bee City".

The David Suzuki Foundation has created a wonderful guide to Toronto's pollinators.

Some of the flowers the guide suggests for native bees include goldenrod, raspberry, fennel, and squash. Native roses to plant for Ontario bees include the meadow rose (Rosa blanda), pasture rose (Rosa carolina), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) and the prairie climbing rose (Rosa setigera). Wild lupins of Ontario for bees are Lupinus perennis.

A cool choice for the official bee of Ontario is the evening primrose lasioglossom bee. Plant native sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa) to support this bee, which pollinates before 9 am. Three bees under threat in southern Ontario are the rusty patched bumblebee, the gypsy cuckoo bee and the American bumblebee.

Now we're talking to the Yukon Territory.

There are 96 species of bees in the Yukon.

The Yukon is a comparatively fragile ecosystem so we need to stay away from planting invasives. Plant local native plants and download the invasive species guide so you know what to stay away from. 
One bee plant I love is Gaillardia—blanket flower—do not plant the species Gaillardia aristata up in the Yukon because it is invasive there. Also stay away from planting any clover species which are not native to the region. Some other common bee plants you need to be careful with include common yarrow, California poppy and bachelor buttons. This is a trio of plants that can be beneficial in some regions and invasive in the others.

 Now download Common Yukon Roadside Flowers and let's go right to the purple and blue flowers which bees love. This is where I found a new plant I didn't know existed: American Dragon Head, which makes me very excited because mints are great plants for bees and I'm always looking for a native mint and here's a beauty. In my book I talk about planting European dragon head instead of lemon balm because it has the same flavor and scent profile and it's not as invasive, but hey, let's try to create a robust community of this American dragon head (Dracocephalum parviflorum). Two native roses you can plant for Yukon bees are the arctic flame (Rosa acicularis) and the wood rose (Rosa woodsii) which is native in the southern Yukon.
The western bumblebee (mckayi subspecies), The gypsy cuckoo bumblebee and the yellow-banded bumblebee are threatened species in the Yukon. I vote for the Nevada Bumblebee as the official bee of the Yukon,

The provincial flower, fireweed is a fantastic bee plant for all of Canada and the beautiful pollen is blue and green. 

Let's talk to Regina, Saskatchewan.

There are 245 species of native bees in Saskatchewan.

I'll be doing a book talk in Saskatoon at the Main Library on  June 8, at 7 pm.

Check out this fascinating research project on wild bees in Saskatchewan lead by bee scientist Cory Sheffield who is currently based in Regina. 
In this article Cory reminds us that bumblebee queens pollinate the early blooming haskap berries, but to support the entire life cycle of the colony you need to plant flowers that support bumblebees right into the fall so the new queens can fatten up for hibernation.

Here's another article that reminds us neonics don't just affect bees.

Since I'm from Cactus Lake, Saskatchewan I am very fond of the prickly pear cactus, which is a bee-loved prairie wildflower.

Which bee do you think should be the official bee of Saskatchewan? I vote for the long-tongued digger bee Anthophora terminalis which I found in my mom's garden. She's a very cute and noisy little bee.

Native roses in Saskatchewan are the prairie rose (Rosa arkansana), the meadow rose (Rosa blanda) and the wood rose (Rosa woodsii). Some of my favorite prairie flowers for bees are the annual and perennial species of blanket flower (Gaillardia) and Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera).

Check out this amazing local group called Rosie and the Riveters singing Honey Bee.

Now we're off to Victoria, British Columbia.

There are 451 species of native bees in BC. 

Make sure you get a copy of the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team (GOERT) handbook. It’s fantastic. Dr. Elizabeth Elle Elle’s lab at Simon Fraser University has found the two most popular plants in the Garry Oak sites they visited interms of number of bee visits were common camas or blue camas (Camasia quamash) (over 7 species of bees including mining, sweat, cuckoo, mason, bumblebees and honeybees) and great camas. I’m a big fan of blue camas and you can see it in bloom in the Garry Oak planting at Van Dusen and bumblebees and mason bees love it! Important early spring native bulb for bees. Let’s see more of it!
The third most popular plant was the snowberry (Symphoricarpus alba)—go buy one and plant one right now—the berries are white (they're not edible) but the flowers bloom longer than any shrub out there—including when its in bloom.
The fourth runner up was Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta) which has pink flowers and when it booms it is like a blanket of pink. Imagine a meadow full of these flowers blooming in spring and buzzing with bees—super little plant. Daniel –showed us photos of it in bloom in its native habitat and I was like—why aren’t we planting Sea Blush? It’s an important early bee plant.
There have been some sightings of the rare western yellow-banded bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis) in Victoria gardens. Plant native bumblebee plants like salmonberry and long-blooming perennials such as lavender to support this bee which was once common in its indigenous zones.

A species of lupins native to BC is large-leafed lupin (Lupinus polyphyllus). Native roses of BC include the Arctic flame (Rosa acicularis), Baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), wood rose (Rosa woodsii) and my favorite, the Nootka rose (Rosa Nutkana).

My favorite BC bee? Today it's Andrena prunorum, which can be spotted on the cover of my book sipping nectar next to a beetle on masterwort (Astrantia). I've nicknamed her the foxy bee because of her reddish colouring.

Hello Winnipeg, Manitoba!

There are 243 species of native bees in Manitoba.

I will be coming to launch my book in Winnipeg on June 2, 7pm at the McNally Robinson Bookstore.  I'm hoping to visit the Living Prairie Museum.

The provincial flower of Manitoba, the Prairie crocus, is important to bumblebee queens. Native roses for bees in Manitoba include t
he Arctic flame (Rosa acicularis) prairie rose (Rosa arkansana), the meadow rose (Rosa blanda) and the wood rose (Rosa woodsii)

Check out this beautiful resource on Prairie Pollination created by the Museum of Manitoba.

A cool native plant that attracts ground-nesting bees in sandy sites in Manitoba is called hairy prairie clover. Unfortunately it is a species at risk. Plant purple prairie clover instead.

A beautiful bee of Manitoba is the orange belted bumblebee (Bombus ternarius). She feeds on raspberries, goldenrod and milkweed among other plants.

And now we're chatting to Edmonton, Alberta. 

There are 335 species of native bees in Alberta.

Calling all Edmonton-based bee geeks, come and bring some pinned bees--I'd love to see the local bees. My book launch is June 16 at Audrey's books at 7 pm. I'm also doing a book launch in Calgary at Shelf Books June 14, 7 pm where I hope there's going to be some pre-eminent bee dudes as guests. Fingers crossed.

This cutey should be Edmonton’s official bee:  Milwakee Andrena mining bee (Andrena milwakeensis)—could we rename it the Edmonton rusty mining bee? These bees love high bush cranberry flowers.I have a picture of this bee in my book taken by Edmontonian Heather Proctor. Thanks Heather!

Wild Alberta roses for bee are the Arctic flame aka the provincial flower (Rosa acicularis) prairie rose (Rosa arkansana), and the wood rose (Rosa woodsii). One of my favorite Alberta wildflowers is the Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata).

We're on to Cape Breton Nova Scotia. 

There are 231 species of native bees in Nova Scotia.

We've got to talk blueberry bees! Download the info sheet on bees that pollinate apples and lowbush blueberries in Nova Scotia. The Habropoda bees are known as "blueberry bees."Surely one of those should be the province's official bee! They are also very important bees in Quebec.

Wild roses for bees in Cape Breton include the meadow rose (Rosa blanda) the pasture rose (Rosa carolina), the shining rose (Rosa nitida), the swamp rose (Rosa palustris), the Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) and the wood rose (Rosa woodsii).

Finally, we end up in Sudbury Ontario. 

According to Cory Sheffield, there are 415 species of native bees in Ontario. 

I recommend downloading this publication: A Landowner's guide to Conserving Native Bees in Ontario by Susan Chan. According to Chan, native bees in Northern Ontario are less likely to be affected by toxic pesticides used in agricultural practice.

Native roses to plant for Ontario bees include the meadow rose (Rosa blanda), pasture rose (Rosa carolina), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) and the prairie climbing rose (Rosa setigera). 

Wild lupins of Ontario for bees are Lupinus perennis


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