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.

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 de marque et Patagonia for sponsoring this Bee City Canada project. This work would not have been possible without their generous support.

Wild at Heart: Wild About Wildlife and Pollinators!

Wild at Heart: Wild About Wildlife and Pollinators!

Take a moment and think about a wildlife rehabilitation centre: do images of injured turtles, sick owls, and orphaned deer fawns and racoons come to mind? Probably! How about insects and pollinators? Maybe not, but Wild at Heart is hoping to change your mind about what wildlife centres do.

Who is Wild at Heart?

Located in Lively, Ontario, Refuge pour la vie sauvage Wild at Heart is a wildlife rehabilitation centre focused on providing quality veterinary care to northern Ontario’s injured, sick, and orphaned wildlife. Our goal is to release all admitted animals back into the wild, helping to ensure the health of the habitats that these animals call home. We also focus on protecting nature through our educational and outreach programming.

Child completing a turtle shell repair craft at Wild at Heart’s Pollinator Garden “Grand Opening” event, held June 24, 2017

Healthy Ecosystems for All

We also firmly believe that a healthy ecosystem means everything is healthy: people, animals, insects, vegetation, and water systems. Pollinators, like bumblebees, hummingbirds, bats, and butterflies, are critical to maintaining biodiversity by ensuring that plants can reproduce through pollination. We are very excited about our partnership with Bee City Canada through the Bee City Business Program and looking forward to working together to bring greater awareness about how individuals and communities can make positive changes to help these incredible and essential insects and animals.

Wild Lupin found in Wild at Heart’s pollinator garden being pollinated by solitary wild bee.

Pollinator Garden Celebration

In June 2017, Wild at Heart celebrated the “Grand Opening” of our pollinator garden during National Pollinator Week, thanks to a grant from BEAN. The event, which drew families and others from nearby communities, featured an expert gardener, tomato and milkweed plant giveaways, and fun activities for all. Our guests learned about the native plants in our garden, as well as healthy gardening practices, like using a rain barrel, compost, natural mulch, and weeding techniques. We were very pleased by the positive comments from our visitors, and since this event, our new garden had been recognized through the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat Certification program!

Road sign for Wild at Heart’s pollinator garden “Grand Opening” event, held June 24, 2017.

Watering our pollinator garden with water collected in our rain barrel.

Get Involved and Learn with Wild at Heart!

We invite you to join one of Wild at Heart’s education workshops, which are available for classrooms, seniors’ and community groups, and birthday celebrations. Check out http://wahrefugecentre.org for more information.

Don’t live in Sudbury? You can support Wild at Heart by purchasing a yearly membership, or symbolically adopting an animal, like a moose, snowy owl, Blanding’s turtle, or red fox.

Connect with Wild at Heart:

Website: http://wahrefugecentre.org
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter: @WAHRefugeCentre
YouTube: @babooshka152

Monica Seidel

Monica Seidel

This featured post was written by Monica Seidel, an Environmental Science graduate from Queen’s University who began working at Wild at Heart after completing their volunteer animal care internship. She has a passion for creating online educational content, and empowering children to learn about wildlife and the environment, and how they can make a positive, and often local, impact.

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Bee City School Garden Project Breaks Ground

Planting and tending to a garden teaches us many important things about nature, pollinators and where our food comes from, which is why we’re extremely excited about Bee City Canada’s School Gardens project, which kicked-off this spring.

Bee City Canada founder Shelly Candel speaks with students and teachers at North Bendale Public School. The Bee City team visited all participating schools during the winter to talk about plants, pollinators and begin the garden planning process.

This initiative, which is being generously supported by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation de marque et Patagonia, is bringing pollinator, herb and edible gardens to several Toronto-area schools including Tredway Woodsworth and North Bendale Public Schools in Scarborough, Valley Park Middle School and Marc Garneau Collegiate in Thorncliffe as well as Cottingham Junior Public School in Summerhill.

Students learned that an essential step of establishing a garden is creating a good design and plan.

Why Gardens? 

Through the simple task of gardening, children and communities can become more connected with nature, especially those in highly urbanized environments. looking after a garden also promotes physical activity, self-sufficiency and encourages healthier eating that includes more fruit and vegetables. In addition, there have been studies which suggest that students who are exposed to outdoor learning activities can perform better academically.

Building the Gardens 

As I write this, the first and most laborious phase of the project is taking place. Truckloads of compost, which will serve as the base for the gardens, have started arriving at the schools and the students have taken up shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows to begin shaping the planting areas.  Seed for hardier, cold-tolerant varieties of plants, like kale, swiss chard and lettuce, are being sown directly into the beds, while more tender varieties will be planted as the risk of frost passes. Several other plants have been started by the students in their classrooms. These are providing an excellent opportunity to observe the growing process up-close and will eventually find their way into the gardens.

Starting seeds.

Next Steps                                

By mid-June, all planting will be completed and focus will shift to the maintenance phase of the project, which will include tasks like watering, weeding and looking after any potential problems. Our hope is that the students will have learned a great deal through their work in the garden and, with good fortune and the right weather, can harvest, enjoy and share the fruits of their labour throughout the summer months.

We’ll “bee” updating our blog with more photos and our latest school garden news throughout the growing season so, please make sure to check back to see what’s “growing” on!

Living With Bees and Wasps

Living With Bees and Wasps

Often, wasps are the stinging culprits and bees get blamed. While bees are better at it, wasps are pollinators too.

If an insect has stung you, and at any time, you feel it is becoming difficult to breathe, call an ambulance or go directly to the emergency room.

Most of the time, your reaction will be minimal or absent (especially if you have never been stung by that type of insect before). Often times it will hurt immediately for a very short period and may begin to swell or swelling may develop later that day or the next.

If you have been stung on a finger on which you wear a ring, take the ring off before swelling develops.

Stings can bring down you blood pressure, do not drive a vehicle or otherwise exert yourself if possible. Eat something, especially something sweet and drink some water. Be conscious of your surroundings and assess whether you feel faint.

Look into the bee, wasp, ant allergy test if you suspect your child has shown signs of an allergy, and then always carry the epi-pen if they do.

If you feel you are having an anaphylactic reaction, use your epi-pen or ask the manager of the space if they have one.

After using an epi-pen go directly to an emergency room for further essential treatment.

If you give a child antihistamine for a sting, be sure to continue to monitor for breathing issues, which might require epinephrine.

Bee Stings

Remove the stinger with your nail to prevent further venom being released. Wash the area and put ice on it to reduce the swelling. Take an anti-inflammatory if you have had a bee sting before and worry about the area becoming swollen. Take an antihistamine if you have had a sting in the past that brought on allergic symptoms you want to avoid.

Any clothing the stinger may have touched should be washed, as this could have been marked with the alarm pheromone and cause future stings if there is more than one bee present. This is highly unlikely unless you have opened a Honey Bee hive or are standing in front of the entrance to one.

Wasp Stings

The stinger will not be an issue, just put ice on it to reduce the swelling and take an antihistamine or anti-inflammatory if you have had a sting in the past that brought on allergic symptoms you want to avoid.

Bees and Wasps live in our Gardens

Pollinators have very important functions within habitats, as all creatures of the planet do. Learning how to live with them again may be just the thing to save us both.

Most of our bees live in ground nests along with many wasps. Some bees live in cavities in buildings and plants and some wasps make hives in trees and on structures.

If you follow their behaviour at a few times during the day you will learn a lot about them.

If you see bee habitation, repurpose the areas or alter the landscape (think like a bee!) only after the bees have gone to bed (watch for them returning sometime before twilight). They can dig their way out but won’t find a hole you have covered up.

Water and mulch the areas you don’t want ground nesters living in (like high traffic areas around doors and stairs).

Find some areas that you don’t mind them inhabiting and leave those spaces alone, don’t mulch or water them and don’t create paths in front of them.

Find the safest way of dealing with the situation for you and the pollinator by answering these questions:

Who

Is it a bee or a wasp?
Identify distinctive shapes, colours, sounds, markings and behaviours.

What

What flowers/plants do they tend to pollinate, what other duties do they have in the ecosystem (many wasps feed on ‘pest’ species).

What are they looking for to eat at this time the year.

What is it about their behaviour that is bothering you.

When

What times of the season are they more defensive.

When are they looking for a home vs. feeding.

What is their lifespan, how long will they occupy a nest,

When is it best to try to remove a nest or deter them from making one.

Where

Where do they live, what are their habits

Where can we expect to see them

What do we bring into the garden to attract them to us? (Pop and juice, fallen fruit, garbage)

How

Signs and signals they might give before stinging us, places we can be and expect to get stung, or actions we do to cause a sting (waving arms quickly, swatting)

How can you change the way you use the space to reduce conflict.

Why
Based on the information given, students can then answer why.

Why do bees and wasps sting? (Answer: As a defense mechanism)

When Bees or Wasps are Bugging You

Share the importance of being calm and still when one comes close.

Make the wasp dizzy, spread your fingers wide, and rotate your hands (like you are turning a large doorknob), or twirl away from the area, leaving them confused and unable to follow you.

Wear long sleeve shirts and pants when in the garden for long hours and If bees or wasps are hanging around you, consider tying up long hair to prevent them from getting tangled.

Wasps are attracted to our food

Keep food or sugary drinks covered; remove snacks or fallen fruit (keep area clean of garbage and animal feces).

Burn incense like sage smudge (or use a beekeeper’s smoker with pine needles) to distract and confuse them (while barbequing, especially in the fall when wasps are more urgently packing away food stores and want meat, they are carnivorous, bees are vegans).

Wasps Nests

Place a brown paper bag in the garden to deter wasps from setting up a hive close by in a tree or on a building.

If small enough to cut off, try to re-site a wasp hive in a less busy area. Use a bee suit, gloves and boots.

If you can’t wait for the end of their nesting season in the Fall, cover the nest opening (watch where they come and go from and see if there are obvious holes) with soil and a large pot, then mulch around the pot. Do this at night when they have gone to bed.

If there are mice in the area they are likely borrowing a burrow. If you don’t remove it, in the Fall they will abandon it and not use it again the next year, nor will other wasps inhabit the area next year.