Bee at Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Bee at Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Bee the difference

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

Did you know that 90 per cent of Canada’s bees don’t live in hives? On May 27, 2017, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), in partnership with Telus, hosted a corporate volunteer event to educate participants about some of Canada’s most well-known pollinators, and show them how to bring the bees to their own backyards.

Telus employees and their families joined the event, with 37 kids and adults in attendance. After a short educational presentation, volunteers constructed bee hotels to take home and install in their backyards.

Bee hotels are designed to give bees a safe place to nest and lay their eggs; the hotels come in a variety of different styles and can be created many different ways. Attendees made their bee hotels out of tin cans, empty bamboo stalks, cotton and skewers.

Interested in learning what you can do to help pollinators in your own backyard?

In Canada, only 20 per cent of the bee population lives above ground, and the rest are soil nesters. However, due to disease, climate change, pesticides and habitat loss, there has been a steady decline of native bees. 

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

In total, Alberta is home to approximately 320 different species of bees. NCC is helping protect these pollinators by planting native plants, creating nesting habitats, and working to conserve and restoring natural spaces.

“Native bee populations are on the decline. One of the main causes is loss and fragmentation of their habitat. The event provides a platform to educate on the diversity of bees and how individuals can help support them in their own backyard by providing both habitat and a food source,” said Kirsten Falkenburger, conservation volunteer intern.

Some native bees live in dead wood and old trees with holes in them, while others nest in the ground living in tunnels created by other bugs.

The removal of dead wood and lawn cleanup are taking away native bees' habitats. The purpose of these bee hotels is to make yards more habitable for pollinators.

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

Participants at the Telus bee hotel event (Photo by NCC)

Native bees are more efficient pollinators than honey bees, which are native to Europe. As little as 250 female orchid bees can pollinate the equivalent of 10,000 to 20,000 European honey bees. They can forge earlier in the day, even in cold and wet conditions, and will find pollen in any temperature. More than 80 different species visit Alberta canola crops each year.

For individuals interested in attracting friendly pollinators, native plants, such as black-eyed Susan, wood lily, bee balm, Canada goldenrod and speedwell, are a good way to make your garden bee-friendly.

This event was part of NCC’s corporate volunteer program, which engages companies and their employees in caring for Canada’s native species. The creation of these bee hotels is one example of the activities that can be done by teams of corporate volunteers as part of in-office events, which NCC has been holding since 2015. 

Companies looking to engage their employees in in-office or field-based volunteer opportunities can contact Steven Ross at 403-444-2850 or steven.ross@natureconservancy.ca.

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