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Condo market for bees is buzzing
Environmental Youth Alliance
Nectar nerds, you won’t believe your five eyes on this listing! Charming starter hive. Solid, all-wood construction. Cosy home for 36. Panoramic views, close to fields and flowers – a pollinator’s paradise. Won’t be empty long. Buzz over and check it out. No mites please.
Hartley Rosen, Manager of Urban Agriculture and Greening for the Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) hasn’t placed any classified ads yet, but he is hoping that the new bee “condos,” “high-rises” and “super lodges” his group is building and placing all over Vancouver will fill up fast.
Rosen is working with local bee enthusiasts to create bee-friendly habitat, and reverse a recent crash in bee populations that is happening across North America.
One of the reasons for the decline in honeybees is Varroa mites. The mites take over bee colonies and smother the bees’ immune systems, making them more prone to infection.
“The decrease in honey and wild bee populations is a serious concern in British Columbia,” says Rosen. “What most people don’t know is that 30 per cent of our food system is dependent on bee pollination to create the fruit and vegetables we enjoy.”
One busy bee in search of nectar can pollinate 50 to 1,000 flowers a day. The pollen clings to its hind legs, and is transferred to every flower it lands on.
“The bottom line,” says Rosen, “is no bees … no apples.”
To help tackle the problem, EYA launched the Pollinators’ Paradise project. The project is building high-end bee homes to increase native mason bee habitat and pollination. The bee “condos” are placed in people’s backyards and in public spaces.
Partnering with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Park Board, EYA has managed the project in two phases. Phase one was funded by Eco Action and launched in April 2008. Smaller condos with space for 36 females were placed in backyards to attract the Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria). Vancouver Foundation provided a grant of $15,000 to assist with phase two of the project, which was launched in March 2009.
Phase two saw a boom in beehive construction. Fifty new “high-rises,” with room for 72 females, were built by Vancouver Tech Secondary students for neighbourhood parks. Three “super lodges,” with space for 720 females were built, two of which were made by woodworking students at Britannia Secondary. The first super lodge was built as a pagoda, the second in the shape of the great pyramids, and the third like a Yaletown condominium. All were placed in major parks throughout the city.
High school students enjoyed the challenges of the woodworking involved. They learned new techniques and skills and, for many, it was a chance to do something for the community.
Rosen recalled his favourite moment of the project was a “cocoon cleaning party.” He said 50 people joined together at the Strathcona Community Centre where a consultant helped them identify what was going on in the trays. To break out of the cocoon Mason Bees chew a hole through it. Rosen loves “seeing how passionate, interested and committed people are in doing something about the issues facing our environment today.”
He believes if we don’t eliminate bee-friendly wild spaces, and if we treat our agricultural lands more like an ecosystem, perhaps we wouldn’t need such huge honeybee operations, since the wild pollinators would already be there. For example, he says building developments with green spaces will help boost wild bee populations.
Although, the problem of colony collapse disorder has not been solved for honeybees, the Pollinators’ Paradise project is a good start to increasing awareness of the importance of bees, and preserving their habitat and our ecosystem at the same time.
New super lodges for bees can be found at the following locations:
Stanley Park’s Rose Garden – Pagoda super lodge
Everett Crowley Park - Great Pyramids super lodge
Jericho Park - Yaletown condominium super lodge
For more information about Pollinators Paradise project go to www.masonbeevancouver.com/
If you would like to donate to this or other environmental projects, go to the Vancouver Foundation website at www.vancouverfoundation.ca or call 604-688-2204.