The Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Guest post from Frances Fyfe, Friends of the Earth Canada.

Bumblebee photo by Mireille Gauthier (used with permission)
Bumblebee photo by Mireille Gauthier (with permission)

Summer is upon us and that means plenty of exciting events in and around the capital. With that buzz of activity comes another type of buzz: one from bumble bees. Summer is peak activity time for bumble bees all across Canada, including in Ottawa. However, in recent years, bumble bee populations have taken a nosedive. The Rusty-patched bumblebee, once abundant in Southern Ontario, is now almost extinct and officially designated as endangered. Six more native bees are critically at risk, with scientists advising the Federal Minister of Environment to take steps to protect them. This news is alarming, since bumble bees are essential pollinators to many of the crops we grow, and without them, our food supply is critically threatened.

Friends of the Earth Canada, an environmental advocacy group headquartered in Ottawa, has launched an exciting new campaign that blends public participation with scientific research. The Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count kicked off on June 1 and will continue until August 15, 2016. It’s a cross-country citizen science campaign that asks people to take pictures of bumble bees when they see them in their yards or in public spaces. People are then asked to upload them to an online database (www.bumblebeewatch.org) and identify what type of species they are (no identification skills required- the photos will be verified by a team of experts.) This way, scientists will be better able to track the number and distribution of bumble bees over time. It’s an easy and fun way to do your part to protect the bees!

Need inspiration for where to begin? Head down to your local park, or turn The Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count into a family trip to the Mer Bleue bog or the gardens around the Museum of Nature. Alternatively, you can hone your bee watching skills in your front lawn or on the back patio. Bumble bees love sunflower, echinacea, lavender, and of course, bee balm. Other initiatives from the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause include the Let it Bee campaign, which asks gardeners to make their gardens friendlier to bees by using different planting and maintenance techniques, like planting native flowers and providing stems and sticks as nesting sites.

You can learn more about the campaigns at one of Friends of the Earth’s lunchtime workshops, which includes the showing of a new documentary film (A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee) and more information on how to participate in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count (July 7, 14 and 19 from 12:00 – 1:00 at 251 Bank Street). Another workshop will take place at Fletcher Wildlife Garden on July 13 at 7:00 PM and July 17 at 9:00 AM, the latter time with an opportunity to go look for bumble bees afterwards. All events are free and more information on how to register can be found at the Friends of the Earth’s and Fletcher Wildlife Garden’s respective websites.

It’s all part of the many ways you can help protect bumble bees this summer, and they’ll be thanking you for it.

* * *

View the trailer for “A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee” below. More on Clay Bolt and “Beautiful Bees” here.

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