2019: A Year in Review from Our Director

2019: A Year in Review from Our Director

Bee City Canada founder and director Shelly Candel on the strides we made in 2019:

Many thanks to all of you for supporting Bee City Canada in 2019 and especially our Bee City volunteers including our board directors for offering their time, passion and wisdom.

Over this past year, 39 new Bee City family members across Canada committed to protecting pollinators. Yippbee! This included 4 new Bee Campuses, 12 Bee Cities, 10 Businesses and 13 Schools. If you are looking to feel inspired, please take some time and look through these applications. You will find them on our web site. Our newest Bee City, The City of Calgary, has an exceptional and ambitious application committed to restore 20% of open spaces (832 ha) by 2025.

The beautiful pollinator gardens at Wintergreen Studios, who joined the Bee City family in 2019.

Although we are mainly a volunteer organization, we have brought on a talented young staff person, Caitlin Brant. She holds a Masters degree in Conservation Biology and I hope you will get the opportunity to meet and speak with her in the coming year.

When I started Bee City Canada close to 4 years ago, my main objective was simply to help our pollinators. What was clear, however, was that Phyllis Stiles, the founder and director of Bee City USA, had created something really. I am truly grateful to call her a friend and I can’t thank her enough for the difference she has made in my life and also the impact the Bee City phenomena has had on over 200 Bee City affiliates across Canada and the USA. Phyllis will soon retire and Bee City USA will be taken over by the Xerces Society. Knowing Phyllis, she will continue to work for pollinators in other capacities.

From the start, this has been a journey of love and passion for pollinators and people, a philosophy which is still deeply important to us here at Bee City Canada today. I continue to get such a thrill visiting new Bee Cities across Canada and chatting with pollinator champions, who are making such a tremendous difference in their communities. I love learning about bees and other pollinators, as well as the plants who depend on them for the life-giving process we call pollination.

Stein Valley Nlakapamux School in BC also joined Bee City in 2019. They have their very own farm to teach kids about the importance of pollinators!

The role of farmers and gardeners across Canada, and indeed the world, are vital to the success of pollinators going forward. We, as consumers, have the responsibility to ensure that we buy into regenerative agriculture and support farmers who support our environment . Regenerative agriculture encourages biodiversity of microbial life below the ground and at the same time encourages buzzing of all kinds of beneficial insects above ground, including those glorious bees!! The benefits of regenerative farming not only aid our pollinators but also mitigates climate change through carbon storage and a reduction in flooding.

I’m extremely excited to introduce several new initiatives for 2020. As a way of recognising the impact we as individuals have on the wellbeing of pollinators across Canada we have created the “Pollinator Pledge”. The pledge is a designation given to people who commit their yard, garde or balcony to the benefit of pollinators. Another initiative were introducing is the “Bee School Ambassador Program” which will see pollinator champions running workshops at schools nationwide. We also look forward to hosting the “Ontario Bee City Campus” summit where experts in the field of pollinator conservation will be sharing their findings on the state of pollinators and what Canadians can do to help.

“Mother Earth is so generous. If only we give her a chance, she will restore everything in absolute abundance and beauty.” Sadghuru

I wish all of our pollinator friends a very joyous holiday season!

Shelly

Pollinator Champion Feature: Grace of Bumble Kids

Pollinator Champion Feature: Grace of Bumble Kids

Grace, of New Brunswick, is a 10-year-old entrepreneur who created a pollinator-friendly initiative to get kids across Canada into gardening! We interviewed Grace on how she learnt about pollinators and why they are so special to her. Grace and her mom, Cheryl, started Bumble Kids in 2019, a gardening kit for kids that includes native sunflowers.

 

At such a young age it’s incredible that you are so devoted to helping bees. What was it that first got you so interested in protecting pollinators?

In grade 4, I was asked to do an entrepreneur project about whatever I wanted. I decided to create sunflower kits to help our pollinators.

Grace and mom Cheryl, created Bumble Kid Kits to get kids into gardening and help pollinators.

My mom and I planted flowers and we talked about bees and pollinators she told me people were concerned that they weren’t getting enough food. We watched a few videos and found Bee City’s website. It was sad to learn about what is happening to bee colonies, but I liked that my flowers could help.

When you tell your friends at school what you do at Bumble Kids, such as sending ‘Sunflower Starter Kits’ all over Canada for pollinators, how do they react?

They think it’s cool and want to help too. Lots of kids like planting the seeds and a few friends want to help me make the kits for others.

How does it make you feel when you see birds, bees, butterflies and other insects enjoying your garden at home?

It makes me feel happy because they’re getting their breakfast, lunch or dinner and all we had to do was plant flowers. Mom likes to let the dandelions grow in the spring. She says that they are the bees first meal when they wake up. Not everyone likes seeing them on lawns, but I’m happy they’re getting some food.

What’s the most important part about protecting Bees in your opinion?

Bees and other pollinators help our flowers grow, but they also help our fruit grow too. If we help protect them, they will help us. Without them, food would be more expensive or even worse, some foods like fruit may be harder to get.

When you are older, what job do you want to do? Do you think it will be related to helping bees or maybe other animals?

I want to be a teacher because it would be a good way to help kids like me learn about what’s happening in the world around them. I think most kids care about animals, our planet and the environment. It would be fun to help them learn more and even start their own projects that could help make lives better for us and our environment.

 

I know that your mom is so supportive of your commitment to pollinators through Bumble Kids, was it so easy to convince other members of your family, or even your friends, To help out?

I’m lucky. I have a lot of help and support from my family. My older sister helps with the Bumble Kits too. I have some great friends who love animals. My best friend Chloe wants to be a veterinarian… she loves all animals and isn’t afraid to pick up any insect! She’s a lot of fun and we have a lot in common. She’s looking forward to helping Bumble Kids in the Spring.

Some children might be a little nervous or shy about getting their hands dirty with soil or maybe they are even scared of bees, what would you say to them to help them overcome their fears?

It’s fun to plant flowers. You can get gardening gloves in so many colours and it’s fun to use the spade to dig up the earth. We make flower beds with new soil too. We get it from the gardening store. It’s fluffy and feels clean. Getting a little dirty is fun and it’s good exercise too. I used to be afraid of bees, but then I noticed they really don’t even know I’m watching them and Bumblebees are very cute. They’re a little chubby and furry, while honeybees are smaller and thinner (I guess that’s because they get a lot of exercise working to get honey for the colony).

Getting stuck in.

Bees will only sting you if they were scared. So if you calmly walk away and just watch them working you’ll see how sweet and pretty they really are.

Bumble Kids is already a HUGE success that’s no doubt helped soo many bees already all over Canada. What does the future hold for Bumble Kids going into 2020?

I would like more schools to teach kids about our pollinators and how gardens and planting flowers can help. It would be fun for schools to have their own gardens. Some schools have vegetable gardens while other schools have flowers. My school plants marigolds in the spring, but it would be fun to have more projects that would teach kids about our climate and protecting our environment. We are talking to organizations and teachers who can help create classroom tools that can help bring more focus to our pollinators and make learning about our environment fun!

Visit Grace’s website and get your Bumble Kid Sunflower Kits today: https://www.bumblekids.ca/

Interested in becoming a Bee School? Check out our application page for more details: https://beecitycanada.org/become-a-bee-school/application/

About the Author:

Caitlin Brant joined Bee City Canada in 2019 as Program Director. Caitlin’s expertise lies in science education and awareness, including youth engagement. She graduated with a Master’s of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent in 2018.

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.

Growing Gardens Connecting Schools with Nature

Growing Gardens Connecting Schools with Nature

With the new school year starting soon, we want to update you on our school gardens project, which we wrote about last May. Our goal has been to help several Toronto-area schools learn about pollinators, grow their own food and become more connected with nature. We’re pleased to say that the gardens have been growing well throughout the summer and the school communities have enjoyed this unique and rewarding experience, as you’ll see from the following photos.

The garden at Cottingham Junior Public School.  (Photo: Gina Christakis)

It’s no surprise that some of the standout garden performers have been the native plants, like lance-leaved coreopsis, black-eyed susan and swamp milkweed. These plants, which have evolved to be ideally suited to this region, brought beauty to the school yards and admiring looks from passersby. Garden visitors were also rewarded by the opportunity to observe solitary bees, bumble bees, honey bees and butterflies that were attracted to these plants.

A solitary bee visits lance-leaved coreopsis and the cheery blooms of black-eyed susan. (Photos: Nick Savva)

Garden visitors: A monarch butterfly and bumblebee forage on swamp milkweed while a leaf cutter bee lands on the hand of a gardener. (Photos: Nick Savva)

The most enjoyable activity for the school communities has often been harvesting the fruits of their labour.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, beans, swiss chard and other edibles were eagerly collected and became healthy snacks and nutritious additions to homemade meals. Tredway Woodsworth Public School had a bumper crop of zucchini…  our gratitude to the squash bees!

A proud student holds a cucumber she picked and yellow zucchini at Tredway Woodsworth PS. (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

Patty pan squash and a squash bee foraging on the flower of a zucchini plant. (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

Most importantly, these school communities have had opportunities to participate, observe and discover the intriguing and wonderful relationships between pollinators, plants, our food and the ways of nature. This is something that many children are no longer afforded, particularly those growing up in large and highly urbanized centres. Our hope is that these learnings awaken a curiosity, appreciation and lifelong passion that they will carry throughout their lives.

Smiles all around! (Photos: Gina Christakis, Nick Savva)

We want to acknowledge and thank the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Patagonia for sponsoring this Bee City Canada project. This work would not have been possible without their generous support.

Greenwood United Church: First Bee City Faith Community!

Greenwood United Church: First Bee City Faith Community!

We are very happy to welcome Greenwood United Church, located in Peterborough, Ontario, to our fast-growing and diverse Bee City family. Greenwood has committed to taking actions which align with Bee City’s vision of creating healthy habitats, educating the community and celebrating pollinators. For this, we are excited to welcome them as the first Bee City Faith Community in Canada!

The Greenwood congregation started focusing on pollinator conservation in 2016 by establishing a new garden on the large church property. The selected area was prepared and planted with seeds purchased from Peterborough Pollinators and seedlings started by students at a nearby high school. The garden was also equipped with a rain barrel and compost containers, highlighting the community’s desire to adopt more eco-friendly ways. The vision was to create a place where children can explore, neighbours are welcome to walk their dogs and pollinators can thrive.

Above: The hives at Greenwood.
Top: Members of the congregation ready to launch wildflower seed bombs.

Members of the church community have also been tending to a small number of hives. These were recently located on church grounds and have become a focal point for educational activities for the congregation and neighbourhood. The Greenwood community enjoys having neighbours and other community members visit and learn about pollinators. This year’s “Blessing of the Bees” event, which was held on Earth Day, drew an enthusiastic crowd. Another event is planned for the fall to celebrate the opening of the hives.

A Greenwood beekeeper inspects the hives.

Future plans include the creation of a sanctuary garden, which will provide more food and shelter for pollinators. The Greenwood community also understands that pesticides are harmful to pollinators and have committed to being pesticide-free. Furthermore, members of the congregation have canvassed the area around the church, going door-to-door to encourage neighbours to skip the chemicals.

We are grateful to Greenwood United Church for their positive actions to help our precious pollinators and spread the word about their importance! We also hope that their work will inspire their home city to join the Bee City movement and become an example that many other faith communities will choose to follow.

Find out how your faith community, business or organization can join the Bee City family.

Alexis Ocampo

Alexis Ocampo

Communications Intern at Bee City Canada

This featured post was written by Alexis Ocampo, an undergraduate student studying Environment and Development at McGill University. Alexis is interested in the fields of resource management, renewable energy and food sustainability and envisions a future where nature and human development are harmonious. She believes that those who have the power to enact positive change should, and hopes to affect such change in both corporate and non-profit capacities throughout her career. She spends her downtime enjoying the simple things – books, friends, food and conversation.

Western Becomes First University Recognized by Bee City Canada!

Western Becomes First University Recognized by Bee City Canada!

Western University is buzzing with excitement after becoming the first university to be designated a Bee School by Bee City Canada!

Western University is a proud member of the Bee City Canada family!

The Bee City designation is given to communities, including cities, towns, First Nations, businesses and schools,  that establish and maintain healthy pollinator habitat within their boundaries. To be recognized, participants are committed to:

  • Creating, maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat
  • Educating their community about the importance of pollinators, and
  • Celebrating pollinators during National Pollinator Week or at other times.

Bumble bee and catmint (Nepeta racemose Walker’s Low) spotted on campus.

Creating and maintaining and/or improving pollinator habitat

With over 422 acres, the Western University campus provides many opportunities for pollinator friendly spaces and plants to be integrated. Over the next 5 years, several of Western’s gardens and manicured areas will include more native plant species and plants. Along with already established pollinator friendly trees, Landscape Services has begun the process by increasing plantings of ironweed, liatris, and Joe Pye weed.

Similarly, Western’s Indigenous Studies students have created a medicinal garden on campus. The garden features many native plants sought by pollinators.

Beekeeper Rick Huismann tends to the bees.

Educating the community about the importance of pollinators

Another key component of the designation includes educating the campus community on the benefits of being bee friendly. Our Green campus is an ongoing lecture series at Western. This coming academic year, the lecture series will include a module focusing on pollinators. Participants will learn about care for native plants and enticing habitat, including creating Bee Condos.

Celebrating pollinators during International Pollinator Week

Western is hosting a Pollinator Week during the academic year, with the goal of engaging students, staff, and faculty. The week will be highlighted by a booth on campus, interactive information about pollinators and current campus initiatives, and social media updates. Participants may also sample or buy pollinator friendly products, such as Great Hall Catering’s honey, harvested from beehives on campus.

To date, Bee City Canada recognizes the participation of 19 cities, 8 businesses, and 20 schools.

Laura Pendlebury

Laura Pendlebury

This featured post was written by Laura Pendlebury, a Masters of Environment and Sustainability student from Western University. Laura wants to work with public and private enterprises to improve their current environmental practices and integrate sustainability into both short and long term operations. She can often be found outside petting other people’s dogs, discussing the fascination and critical importance of pollinators and their habitats, and encouraging anyone who will listen to reduce their waste and sort it properly.