Pollinator Champion Feature: Susan Blayney

Susan Blayney is the former chair of the Pollinator Action Committee for Bee City Kawartha Lakes. Susan has always had a love for the natural environment, joining a field naturalist club in her 50’s and taking an interest in things such as bird and butterfly identification.

After retiring from nursing in 2008, she was able to invest more time into her interests. Her efforts with another field naturalist to put forward a project to protect provincially significant wetlands gained attention and in 2012 she was invited onto the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) for the City of Kawartha Lakes (the former Victoria County).

Her work with the EAC enabled her to take on local causes inspired by the agricultural community of the area. “It was the Environmental Advisory committee work that prompted me to take on causes and issues,” Susan said. “And to me the whole [pollinator] decline and neonicotinoids, was the issue that I decided needed to be addressed, because…we are an agricultural community up here. Corn and soybeans! So anyway, that’s how I got into environmentalism, you know, evolved from being a field naturalist.”

Recently, Susan gave a Native Bee talk in Abbey Gardens in Haliburton, Ontario on August 28. She talked about people’s dependency on honeybees for our agriculture and how they are not as efficient in pollinating as some of our native bees. The majority of our native bees don’t fit out traditional idea of what a bee is, that is, they are mostly solitary and live in the ground or in hollow stems rather than in hives.

“When you start understanding about pollinator decline you start to realize that…it’s our native bees that are in the most trouble. And that the non-native European Honey Bees, yes, they experience massive die offs and are certainly affected by neonicotinoids, but they’re not going extinct,” Susan said. “And so …when I’m talking about pollinators I want to make the distinction between honeybees and native bees.”

Susan continued talking about Mason bees, an essential pollinating species in apple orchards that nest inside hollow dead stems and other tube-like vegetation. “They [mason bees] are like leafcutter bees, they nest in…hollow tubes like stems… We can preserve stems by not cutting everything down at the end of the seasons so that if there are bees in there they are allowed to over winter. We can make sure in our gardens that there’s bare space for bees to live in the ground. Those are things that we can do to make our properties more pollinator-friendly.”

Although making backyards pollinator-friendly is a good learning tool, Susan also emphasized the importance of large scale changes essential to pollinator health. “Planting native plants, making sure that in areas…we’re preserving meadows, grassland, planting native trees in our parks instead of just you know, foreign ornamental stuff [that] looks nice…We need to make sure that our environment is doing its job instead of degrading it by just putting, you know just putting things that aren’t going to be used by insects.”

Susan stressed the importance of agricultural reforms, moving away from pesticides which are used to keep predatory insects at bay. She noted methods such as regenerative agriculture where the soil is replenished and able to support ecosystems where pests are regulated by natural predators and not by the chemicals we apply to our crops, unintentionally killing valuable pollinators. “It [regenerative agriculture] means that the soil …is restored to being an organism where insects live and fungus lives and if all of that stuff is allowed to be then it’s a natural pesticide…we’ve sterilized created monocultures that allow for…insect pests to flourish and so then we’ve become dependent on pesticides. This is why insects are declining …all over the world. You know, why Germany noticed that 75 % of its insects are missing. Even in natural areas, it’s because the pesticides are so pervasive.”

Recently, some European countries have moved towards banning or pledging to ban glyphosate, a common herbicide. Susan explained; however, that pollinator decline is a much more complex problem than just banning the use of agricultural chemicals. “In the beginning, it was about banning… neonicotinoids because of the honey bees were dying. But now I see that it’s really a much bigger problem and…there’s no real quick fix to it other than education. It’s all about education. Changing the way people think about the world and how it works.” Susan said.

Susan credited Bee City movement as the driving force to convince her city to take on the title of a Bee City. “Because there was an organization like Bee City [Canada]…I don’t think I would have ever gotten my municipality to pass a resolution supporting pollinator conservation,” Susan said. “That would have never happened. But by talking to them about, you know that this was a movement, that other communities were doing it, that there – it was going to allow them to perhaps reach some of their environmental goals that they had set out in their official plan.”

Susan recalled a project she spearheaded while she was on the where pollinator-friendly seeds were planted on a decommissioned landfill rather than grasses to make the area more attractive to pollinators. “Every community has landfill[s], and it’s a huge amount of land that’s taken out of the ecosystem and when it closes it needs help to be put back into the ecosystem and just planting grass for erosion…doesn’t help pollinators, but if the vegetation becomes pollinator-friendly then it’s a win-win.”

Another major accomplishment for the City of Kawartha Lakes was mapping a pollinator pathway, a network of registered private and public spaces dedicated to pollinators in the form of gardens with pollinator-friendly vegetation. Currently, there are 60 people registered as part of the pathway. This past spring, the idea expanded into a self-guided pollinator garden tour consisting of 12 gardens and 7 public spaces. The municipality and the tourism department also participated, providing materials and promotion of the garden tour and pollinator week.

Susan suggested future projects could include workshops on maintaining pollinator-friendly gardens and how to identify appropriate plant species. “I think for any community, that this would be a great way of pulling together people who are interested in supporting pollinators and also creating a network for education.”

About the Author:

Elizabeth Benner is a science journalist who writes about the environment, biology, and earth sciences. She has produced content for Bee City Canada, the Varsity, and Science Borealis. You can find Elizabeth on Twitter at @elizbenner.

Another Great Year!

Another Great Year!

Dear friends,

2018 proved to be another exciting and encouraging year at Bee City Canada, with an ever-expanding list of cities, towns, schools, businesses and other organizations stepping forward and committing to protect the health of our pollinators. By year’s end:

Looking Ahead

Early signs for things to come in 2019 have us further excited!

  • More Bee City Communities – We have been in contact with several new cities, businesses and schools that plan to join our growing Bee City family in the new year.
  • Free Webinars – Look out for our free, public webinars featuring experts on pollinators, plants and other subjects.                     

We close off by wholeheartedly thanking you, our friends across Canada and elsewhere, for your continued support and commitment to protecting our cherished pollinators. 2019 promises to be another busy year and we look forward to it with much anticipation.

Happy Holidays!

The Bee City Canada team

Please Support our Work

Bee City Canada depends on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. With your help, we can continue to support our school programs, educational activities and work towards creating a more pollinator-friendly Canada.

Bee City Canada is a federally-recognized charity, registration number 745761692 RR0001.

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Celebrating Bee Cities Kitchener and Waterloo!

Shelly Candel addresses community members during the Bee City recognition ceremony at the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration.

Despite the chill in the air, there was a great turnout for the 2018 Kitchener-Waterloo Earth Day celebration held at Kiwanis Park in Kitchener on April 28th, 2018.

The event offered many things to interest nature lovers. Fans of birds witnessed some impressive bird of prey presentations put on by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. The Waterloo Horticultural Society, RARE Reserve, Waterloo Region Nature and Bee City Kitchener teams were also on hand, organizing fun and educational activities, such as bird box building and native shrub and tree planting.

Left: The Canadian Raptor Conservancy’s birds of prey were a star attraction at the Earth Day celebration
Right: A young visitor playing the seed matching game at the Kitchener Bee City display table.

What was most exciting for Bee City Canada however, was that we had the honour of recognizing two new Bee Cities, Kitchener and Waterloo! During  a brief ceremony attended by members of each community, Bee City Canada’s founder Shelly Candel offered special thanks to Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky for their support and leadership in protecting pollinators! She also recognized municipal champions Joshua Shea, Natural Areas Coordinator for Kitchener and Peggy Stevens, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator for Waterloo, as well as the working group champions who volunteer their time and passion to help protect pollinators in their respective communities.

Left to right: Waterloo Bee City Working Group member Gary Brenner, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Bee City Canada Director Shelly Candel, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

This was Bee City Kitchener’s first public event and the booth included a seed matching game, educational information and some beautiful photos of native pollinators and plants! The City of Kitchener became Ontario’s 7th Bee City and is undertaking some exciting bee-friendly initiatives all around the city, including a 2018 project that will see eight hectares of meadow habitat restored and enhanced.

Left to right: Nicola Thomas, Kim Fellows, Nancy Dykstra and Kathy Waybrant, four of our Bee City Kitchener Working Group Members.

The City of Waterloo is the 8th Bee City in Ontario and supports native pollinators through community-based stewardship activities and environmental education. Plans for 2018 include new naturalization efforts and ongoing large scale plantings on municipal property. Learn more by visiting Waterloo’s Bee City web page.

Join the Bee City family!  Learn about our programs from cities, schools, businesses and other organizations.

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

A Great Year at Bee City Canada!

With the end of the year approaching, we share with you Bee City Canada’s highlights for 2017 and plans for the future.

Bee Cities from coast to coast! Eight new cities joined us, bringing our current total to 10 Bee Cities, spanning from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

Businesses are helping pollinators! Businesses and organizations, like West Queen West BIA and The Bee Shop, have partnered with us through our new Bee Business program. Also, generous support from A. Vogel and Movieposter.com helped us to continue to advocate for pollinators.

Schools are buzzing! Gardens were planted, seeds were saved and young minds at our six Bee Schools and one Bee Campus learned many important things about bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Much Anticipation for 2018

Our plans for the new year include some exciting, new initiatives.

More Bee Communities – Keep Bee City growing by adding:

  • 10 new Bee Cities
  • 50 Bee Businesses and organizations, and
  • 20 new Bee Schools and Campuses.

New initiatives:

  • Launch a free regional native seed giveaway program for all Bee Cities and other members.
  • Establish six edible and pollinator gardens at schools.
  • Organize workshops and field trips to connect students with how food is grown.
  • Host free public webinars featuring experts on pollinators and other subjects.

Support our Work

As a charitable organization, our work depends on the generosity of our donors and sponsors. We are confident that, with your help, we can continue to support these initiatives and advocate for the protection of pollinators across Canada.

We close off by wholeheartedly thanking you, our friends across Canada and elsewhere, for your continued support and commitment to our cherished pollinators. 2018 promises to be another busy year and we look forward to it with much anticipation.

Happy holidays to you and your families!

The Bee City Canada team

T’it’q’et becomes a Bee City!

T’it’q’et becomes a Bee City!

We are very excited to declare T’it’q’et First Nation, located along the Fraser River and home to the P’egp’ig’lha People, as a Bee City!

Part of the Band Council’s adoption of the resolutions included a requirement that youth members will always sit on their Bee City working group.

After their first official meeting it was decided that, in fact, the youth members would lead the team.

Their relationship to the land is of utmost importance to them, and in honour of that the P’egp’ig’lha People use organic ways of gardening and agriculture. They have declared their land pesticide free, making it part of their commitment to sharing their wisdom throughout the Bee City family.

T'it'q'et Bee City Commitee
From left to right: Matthew Davidson, Cynthia Adrian (Chair), Lakota James, and Shawn Scotchman.

T’it’q’et was put on the path of becoming a Bee City by Shawn Scotchman, the community’s Social Development Coordinator.

“Our community felt it would be a great capacity building project for our youth to take charge of this project,” Shawn told us.

He went on to say that further partnerships with 1st Lillooet Scouts and local schools are being considered .

“Our youth leaders just might influence one or both of our schools to become Bee City Canada Schools!”

What a great way to engage even more young people!

Lakota James at the Health & Science Career Fair, Hosted by Xwisten (formally Bridge River Band) and T’it’q’et Education Coordinators on March 22, 2017 in the P’egp’ig’lha Community Center. For school aged children.

The Team

Cynthia Adrian – Youth Member

Cynthia became an environmental activist in high school. “I would save every little thing. I would save boxes and baggies, because I could find a use for them. It started with recycling and reusing. I wanted to learn how to grow food, live sustainably, save the Earth, and the water. It was a couple years ago, when I learned about the bees. And I made it my mission to tell anyone who would listen, mostly the daycare children where I worked. I taught them the difference between a wasp and a bee, and how bees do not want to harm us. I watched the bees on the sunflowers all summer. I want to help our Earth. I want to learn as much as I can, and teach it to our communities. Our plants and our source of food depend on the bees. I want to help save them.”

Lakota James – Youth Member

Lakota is the committee’s Secretary and Communication person. “I am interested because I’d like to learn more about how I can help. Helping the bees will play a big roll with our environment. Last year I saw a commercial about saving the bees and I’ve wanted to do something for them since. Getting out and helping and planning projects or activities to help will bring me joy and happiness knowing I made a difference.”

Shawn Scotchman

Shawn is a big fan of pollinators and has been following the Bee City programs for some time. In addition to working with his community to initiate their transition to a Bee City, he generously offered his assistance and expertise to help Bee City develop more inclusive application and resolution documents.

Shawn Scotchman will be the group’s Treasure and Finance officer “I created a small budget to help get this project up and running.

Matthew Davidson

Mathew is a horticulturalist and will be the team’s Science and Technical Specialist. He works at Amlec Organic .

Adam Lingor

Adam is also a horticulturalist and manages the Ucwalmicw Center Society’s Organic Community Garden. He will work closely with Matthew.

Susan Napoleon

Susan is T’it’q’et’s Education Coordinator. Her specialty is Indigenous plants that have been traditionally used for food and medicine. We are excited to share her plant lists and wisdom throughout St’at’imc territory and beyond at BeeCityCanada.org

Thanks to all of you!

We are filled with gratitude to the P’egp’ig’lha for protecting and celebrating pollinators.

Welcome to the Bee City Canada family!