Written by: Grace Hunter
Summer is in full swing and with it comes the arrival of delicious local fruits and veggies.
A lot of work goes into growing fresh produce – farmers till soil, water seedlings, and yank out weeds. However, people aren’t the only ones hard at work – bees play an essential role in crop production by pollinating flowers so plants can produce seeds. Over two-thirds of crops benefit from bee pollination, including favourites like strawberries, apples, and cucumbers.
There are over 800 species of native bees buzzing around Canada. These include the
familiar bumblebee (of which there are 40 species), as well as leaf-cutter bees and mason bees. Many native bee species live alone or in small colonies, burrowing tunnels into the ground or decaying wood to make their homes. While you may not notice these tiny workers, native bees are key to pollinating crops both in farmer’s fields and home garden vegetable patches.
However times are tough for the humble bees, with many species experiencing drastic
population declines. Big threats include the use of pesticides on plants as well as the loss of natural habitat for bees. Less bees means less pollination, which in turn leads to less fruits and veggies for our dinner tables.
Luckily, there are steps people can take to help bees. The Let it Bee campaign, led by
Friends of the Earth and supported by Ontario Power Generation, provides actions that
homeowners can take to create a bee-friendly home. Their three main tips are:
1. Leave decaying wood, twigs and branches on the ground where bees can use them as
2. Don’t mulch sunny areas of your lawn and garden so that bees can burrow into the ground.
3. Plant a variety of colourful native flowering plants so the bees can have lots of nectar and pollen.
Check out http://www.letitbee.com to learn more about helping native bees. Next time you bite into a delicious strawberry or eat a handful of blueberries, remember all the hard work bees put in to help bring you that food!