While managed honey bees play an undeniably valuable role within agriculture, native bees are often the unsung heroes of pollination and food production – not only do they increase yield and offer valuable back-up to sole reliance on honey bees, they are also better pollinators of many crops and essential for natural ecosystem function.
In return, these pollination powerhouses rely on nutritious and diverse forage, the decline of which has resulted in poor honey bee health and reduced native bee populations.
While establishing pollinator habitat around farm operations can help increase bee resistance to parasites, disease and the effects of pesticide exposure, there is poor uptake in most farm landscapes due to a lack of local research and best management practices.
With funding through the Bee BC Program, Pollinator Partnership Canada (P2C) introduced the Blenkinsop Meadow Restoration Project to enhance wild bee habitat and forage in Victoria, while providing a model for future pollinator restoration projects.
In collaboration with partners like the Peninsula Streams Society, Saanich Native Plants Nursery and local secondary schools, P2C planted a half-acre native plant pollinator meadow in a highly visible urban/agricultural area, and continues to monitor pollinator activity and collect data to inform best management practices.
According to project coordinator Dr. Lora Morandin, creating awareness and recruiting volunteers from the local community and schools was essential to the project’s success, resulting in more than 50 community members planting over 2,000 native plants and seeds, and more than 40 students assisting with planting, maintenance and pollinator monitoring.
Workshops were also developed to educate students on issues regarding native bee and honey bee health, the importance of pollinators, and bee identification and monitoring including a citizen science technique used to track bee abundance and diversity. Alongside the project team, select students also participated in monthly observations to gather pre-restoration baseline data on the existing pollinator community at the site.
While the project is still in early stages in terms of measurable results on bee population and ecosystem enhancement, it has already seen tremendous success with community engagement, best management practice development, number of plants planted, and area restored for native and managed pollinators. The benefits to surrounding agriculture and urban gardens are anticipated to unfold shortly.
Given public support to date, Dr. Morandin is confident the project will continue to yield long-term benefits and generate further community engagement.
“The meadow will continue to serve as a demonstration site to highlight the benefits of habitat and provide information to land managers, the community and growers on how to establish habitat and support healthy managed and native bee populations,” she says, adding that continual monitoring and data collection of plant-pollinator networks will help inform best management practices for the region.
Additional next steps involve the project team designing interpretive signage, as well as installing a central pathway with benches and split-rail fencing.
“As the naturalized meadow matures and the signage, pathways, and benches are incorporated, it will provide a real opportunity for the community and beyond to become educated and aware about native pollinators and their importance to both ecosystem and agricultural health,” Dr. Morandin predicts. “This meadow showcases the possibility of transforming marginal, corporate or public land into a thriving habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.”
Funding: $5,000 through the BC Government’s Bee BC Program. (BEE001)