Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saskatchewan Bumblebees Species List

I had a fabulous time hanging out with the members of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society in Saskatoon. It was an inspiring experience, and has got me all fired up about protecting our beloved prairie bees. There is a surprising number of bumblebee species in Saskatchewan, with different species found in the different bioregions. For details on where the species have been found, be sure to check out Philip S. Curry’s book: Bumblebees of Saskatchewan (Hymenoptera: Apidae) a survey of their geographic distribution. May thanks to Philip and Cory Sheffield for helping me compile a list of Saskatchewan bumblebee species to date. (Any errors are my own!)
There are 26 species of bumblebees in Saskatchewan. Four are cuckoo bees that parasitize the nests of true bumblebees. Four of the true bumblebees are long-tongued with tongues longer that that of the honeybee tongue, which is about 7 mm in length. Five species of the bumblebees are short-tongued with tongues less that 7 mm long.
Long-tongued bees will favor flowers with long corollas in your garden, such as Mondarda fistulosa, the bee balm that is native to Saskatchewan. Plant lots of it!!!!! Add in some other fabulous Monarda species for your best edible bee-feeding bouquets. The medium-tongued bees will feed on your Echinacea purpurea and dip into the flowers with deeper nectaries if they are full to the brim, using the capillary action of their tongue to lap up the sweet stuff. The larger-bodied bumblebees and the queens also like Echinicea purpurea because the flowers can support their weight. The smaller-tongued bees will chew holes in the wild bee balm and rob the nectar without pollinating the flower and they will dip into the smaller flowers and all the asters (gaillardia, grindelia, goldenrod, sunflowers, etc.) with their tiny florets. The rare Bombus occidentalis, which has a short tongue loves the pincushion flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea).  So have fun creating biodiversity in your prairie garden to make it hum with choirs of bumblebees!

Saskatchewan Bombus (Alphabetical Order)

1: White-Shouldered Bumble Bee (Bombus appositus)
Subgenus: Subterraneobombus (long-tongued)
2: Two Form Bumblebee aka Black-notched Bumblebee (Bombus bifarius)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
3: Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus bohemicus) includes Ashton’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus ashtoni) --Endangered
Subgenus Psithyrus
4: Northern Amber Bumble Bee (Bombus borealis)
Subgenus: Subterraneobombus
5: Central Bumble Bee (Bombus centralis)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (long-tongued)
6: Fernald’s Cuckoo Bee (used to be Bombus fernaldae now B flavidus)
Subgenus: Psithyrus
7: Yellow-fronted Bumble Bee (Bombus flavifrons)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
8: Golden Northern Bumble Bee (Bombus fervidus) (including B. californicus)
Subgenus: Thoracobombus (long-tongued)
9: Frigid Bumble Bee (Bombus frigidus)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
10: Brown-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis)
Subgenus: Cullumanobombus (medium-tongued)
11: Hunt's Bumble Bee (Bombus huntii)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
12: Indiscriminate Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)
Subgenus Psithyrus
13: Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus)
Subgenus Pyrobombus (short-tongued)
14: Black Tail Bumble Bee (Bombus melanopygus) aka red-rumped
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
15: Fuzzy-Horned Bumble Bee (Bombus mixtus)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
16: Nevada Bumble Bee (Bombus nevadensis)
Subgenus: Bombias (long-tongued)
17: Western Bumble Bee (Bombus occidentalis occidentalis)--Threatened
Subgenus: Bombus (short-tongued)
18: Confusing Bumble Bee (Bombus perplexus)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (short-tongued)
19: Red-belted Bumble Bee (Bombus rufocinctus)
Subgenus Cullumanobombus (short-tongued)
20: Sanderson's Bumble Bee (Bombus sandersoni)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued*) IUCN*
21: Sitka Bumble Bee (Bombus sitkensis)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
22: Suckley's Bumble Bee (Bombus suckleyi)
Subgenus Psithyrus
23: Red-tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus sylvicola)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)
25: Special Concern--Yellow-banded Bumble Bee (Bombus terricola)
Subgenus: Bombus (short-tongued)
26: Half-black Bumble Bee (Bombus vagans vagans)
Subgenus: Pyrobombus (medium-tongued)

Cory Sheffield
 Bumblebees of Saskatchewan (Hymenoptera: Apidae) a survey of their geographic distribution by Philip S. Curry, 1984.
Discover Life (
Saskatchewan Conservation Data Centre ( a survey of their geographic distribution.
Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson, Sheila R. Colla, March 23, 2014 Princeton University Press.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Postcards from the Summerland Ornamental Garden in May

Can you spot the crab spider in the dessert yellow fleabane (Erigeron linearis)?

 Round-leaved alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica) looks lovely en masse, especially with the pink variations mixed in. The bumblebees LOVE it!

Look at this awesome stump! Perfect for cavity nesting bees.

When looking for a bee nest, look closely at the bark, and note the size and depth of the holes.

I  noticed that the holes are really rough inside and these mason bee condos are not located close enough to the mason bee forage. Good intentions though!

 I had fun watching this bumblebee get covered in orange pollen from this ornamental allium. The colour of the pollen reminds me of Cheezie dust!

My partner in crime Jasna Guy spent a long time studying the shrubby penstemon. Can't wait to see her photos!!!!

The shrubby penstemon was  one of the busiest plants we saw that day. It's an awesome, tough plant that puts the "x" in xeriscape!

The butterfly garden is also a great place for bees with this huge chokecherry tree, redflowering currant, clove currant, antelope brush, nepeta, bugle and more.

This spot with the bugle under the nepeta was particularly attractive to this noisy silver bear of a bee. It was very possessive of this site. A black-chinned hummingbird perched on tree above these flowers.

I caught a nectar nicker in the bleeding hearts and swear I could actually hear the "crunch" as she bit into the top of the flower!

I've decided to do a whole other blog post on the antelope brush because it's so fascinating. What a fantastic time to visit this garden!!!! Hope to come back again and again.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Living Library Day at Riley Park Community Garden

 We started out the printing process by creating a bee drawing to transfer to a rubber block.

Artist Jasna Guy taught the students how to carve the blocks and create prints on paper.

Then I worked with the students to create collaborative pieces by sharing stamps and passing around the emerging artwork.

Finally, students added the names of top plants for pollinators in the Lower Mainland, researched by Dr. Elle's lab at Simon Fraser University.

These collaborative works of art will be shown at events in the community in "clothesline exhibitions."

Earlier in the process, students did watercolour paintings of bees.

These rubber stamps are easier to carve than linoleum, but can be a bit fragile.

Guess which piece Ms. Kool made!!

Then we took the process to Rile Park for our Living Library Day. This was one of the activity stations students worked at while discussing topics close to their hearts.

 Art talked about the natural history of the site and soil science, Anya gave a tree talk, and Thomas led a yoga circle.

Tamara led the wood-chip moving crew, to form the paths that make the garden take shape.

Jess led the weeding party and had interesting conversations with students. Once they got started weeding, they didn't want to switch stations!

Plantain is one of the common garden weeds in Vancouver. If you get stung by a bee, wash up a leave, chew it and apply it to the sting.

One of the boys found and named this ragged moth.

Yoga was also popular!!!

 Students helped prep these elements which will be part of future garden signage.

Wendy led the students in further adventures in printmaking, getting them to take risks and try new techniques.

This is what the future of education looks like!

Now the herb garden is clearly defined. Hopefully the squirrels who have been uprooting and eating the herbs will get the message.

After the event, our youngest garden helpers checked out the new pollinator patch in the parking lot. I counted 6 species of bees foraging in the lacy phacelia, California poppy, California bluebells, and baby blue eyes.

It looks like a coyote has been snoozing in this cozy spot.

Blue orchard mason bee and mixed bumblebee.

A honeybee carrying the purple pollen from this plant. In German it is known as "bienen freunde" or the bee's friend.

 Another species of solitary bee.

This solitary bee is carrying dry pollen, so it is a light purple colour. Bumblebees and honeybees mix a bit of bee spit into their pollen loads, so it appears much darker.

The pollen on the anthers is a light periwinkle blue.

This bumblebee has been foraging on another plant with rich chocolate-coloured pollen--maybe red clover.

A big thanks to everyone who came out and collaborated for our Living Library Day! Special thanks to Tupper High School, the Riley Park Community Garden and ArtStarts who funded this project.