Community Stories

Pollinator Power

May 15, 2020

While the city may not be buzzing exactly, our important pollinators are getting to work. You may not realize, but the list of pollinators in this area is diverse: beetles, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, wasps and hornets, are just a few.

Bees are largely considered to be the best pollinators and in Alberta we have a wide variety of native bees with over 200 species.

“Native bees (both communal and solitary) are critical pollinators. While commercial agriculture operations depend on hiring bee keepers to bring hives to their crops to facilitate pollination, our urban gardens, wildflowers, and fruit-bearing trees all depend on native bees and other insects to ensure pollination,” said Todd Nivens with the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

The power of pollinators is so great that more than 75 per cent of flowering plants on earth rely on them. Food, medicine, fibre and bee-uty are all a product of pollination. So as you work in your garden this spring, consider ways to help them feel at home in your yard.

As you look for ways to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, ‘bee’ creative and build a pollinator hotel for your yard! Plants rely on native bees and thrive when there is a healthy bee population.

“One of the things we need to ensure is a healthy native bee population in urban environments. This is why pollinator hotels are so important,” said Nivens.

Here are a few examples of how you could help our pollen-pushing pals flourish without feeling the financial sting:

  • Build a box or convert an old flower pot into a bumble bee nesting site.
  • Build a cavity nesting bee hotel by drilling some holes into an old log, or appreciate that dead tree in your yard with its many bark crevices and rotten holes as it is a natural pollinator hotel.
  • Take the hollow stems from plants such as goldenrod, coneflower, hydrangea or sunflower and bundle them up inside a can, milk carton or wooden box. Instant bee hotel!
  • Nesting sites are often easily disguised as compost heaps, rock piles and bare soil. All of these areas provide nesting habitat for the majority of our native bees. If you need to turn the compost consider setting a small pile to the side to be used as an alternate pollinator nesting site.
  • Birdbaths also help out our pollinators, providing a water source for more than just the birds.

Other ways to enhance the pollinator habitat in your yard and garden can be found on our ‘Be a Pollinator Pal’ web page. Once you’ve helped them get up and buzzing in your neighbourhood, be sure to protect them.

“By considering ecologically sensitive means of pest control, such as using diatomaceous earth, implementing floating row-covers in your garden, or applying insecticidal soaps or oils to your trees and plants when necessary, you are protecting our pollinators,” said Ken Lehman, Ecological Services Operations Coordinator with The City of Red Deer. “If you decide to use pesticides ensure that you are using them appropriately and at times when pollinators are not active, like at night.”

For more information on Integrated Pest Management click here.

So remember, when you see pollinators in your yard don’t worry, ‘bee’ happy!

Those eager to identify the pollinator species visiting their yards or wanting to contribute to pollinator conservation could check out Bumble Bee Watch or contact the Kerry Wood Nature Centre for further information.