by Lorraine Mennen
March 14, 2017

Families can become native bee keepers. This enriching educational experience for all ages will impact our environment in a blooming good way. Whether you live on a large rural property, a city lot or have a small balcony, you can take care of bees. With mounting concerns of pollinator decline and the negative impact it has on our communities, average families can pull together in focused conservation.

The problems that our natural pollinators face are large. Changes in land use; including removal of fields and forests to make room for urban sprawl, pesticide use, invasive plant species, pollution, and climate change are just a few of them. When we think of our world without bees we are frightened about losing our honey production and bees wax. Many times we forget the larger picture. Seventy-five percent of the food we eat needs pollinators to provide us with a harvest.

Don’t BEE Afraid.

If you are afraid or allergic to bees you will be happy to know these native little miracle workers are NON -STINGING. They do not have a queen bee to protect and they do not produce honey. If by chance they were to sting you because you upset their little world, it would feel like mosquito bite.

The gentle native orchard mason bees, (Osmia lignaria) hatch in the spring and the native leafcutter bees, hatch in the summer. These hyper-efficient air pollinators will work tirelessly in your flower and fruit gardens providing assistance to our overworked honey bees.

Pathways to Perennials, a wildlife focused garden centre has brought from the insect farm entire bee families ready for adoption. The Adopt-A-Bee Kit is available for spring delivery and must be pre-ordered. It comes complete with mason bee and leaf cutter bee cocoons, a sheltered barn with hatchery and reeds for their reproduction.

Mason bee cocoons look a lot like mouse poops. The leafcutter cocoons look similar to small cigars. The larger cocoons are female bees, smaller cocoons are male bees. You need a good mix of both for egg fertilization.

When the babies hatch they fly out of the hatchery and directly into the gardens. As they mature they will return to their bee barn home and lay their eggs in the hollow reeds. You will see that they have hatched as their cocoons will show signs where they pushed themselves out, almost like a cracked egg.

If you purchased the bee barn in the past you can just replace the reeds when necessary and order more cocoons to increase your pollinators. The bee barn should be mounted on a fence, a tree, a shed or garage wall above the ground away from predators such as mice, squirrels, wasps or raccoons.

Bees are Easy to Please

Just plant a beautiful garden with a mix of native fruits, vegetables, herbs and perennials to provide seasonal food and habitat (home) for our bees. The best plants to incorporate are those native to your area because they will provide nectar and pollen. Your local nursery or garden centre will know which ones you need for early spring blossoms to accommodate the mason bees and summer bloomers for leafcutter bees. Butterflies will also benefit from all of your plantings.

As we take care of the bees, they take care of us by providing us with tastier, healthier, nutritious food. You will be amazed at the increase of flowers blooming and the volume of veggies or fruit you will harvest. Even a simple planter, window box or hanging basket will provide a valuable pollinator habitat.

Your small patch of garden may be a true haven for a rare bee, butterfly or moth. Get your cameras ready.

This inexpensive, but valuable project is safe for children and can be welcomed at your home, office or school. Families will share the excitement of hatching their own baby bees.

Pathways to Perennials will host an Adopt-A-Bee workshop this spring on Saturday April 29th about the care and wonder of raising bees (must reserve your space). Becoming familiar with pollinators helps us to understand the relationship to our world, starting in our own backyards or balconies.

Lorraine Mennen is co-owner of Pathways to Perennials an eco-friendly garden center in Pottageville (King Township).

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