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
“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
“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
“This meadow showcases the possibility of transforming marginal, corporate or
public land into a thriving habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.”
$5,000 through the BC Government’s Bee BC Program. (BEE001)