Alouette Pollinator Enhancement Project

The Alouette Pollinator project focuses on connecting community, creating more pollinator forage areas throughout out Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and providing youth with volunteer outreach and environmental field survey opportunities.  The project works with School District 42, the City of Maple Ridge and local community groups to promote engagement and learning around pollinator species, their importance for our ecological and food systems, habitat and food sources, issues facing pollinators and simple solutions to create better conditions for our native pollinators.  The overall aim is to provide youth and adults with the tools to increase pollinator foraging areas while having fun and to provide teachers with resources to increase students pollinator knowledge and to engage them in citizen science opportunities.

Chartwell Willow Retirement Community Pollinator Event 2019:

The fate of our pollinators

Many of the pollinators and bees within BC are understudied, currently there is research being performed on honey and bumble bee populations but very few of our other native bees are studied. This has resulted in a lack of knowledge regarding our native bee populations and how they are doing. The main issues that our native bees face is habitat loss and fragmentation. With urbanization, bees loose both habitat for housing and foraging, making it difficult to find space to live and gather food. Many of our native bee species like to burrow in the ground, make nests within piles of leaf and stick litter, or burrow into old hollow stumps and logs. One species that has been notably affected is the Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis). Starting as one of the most predominate pollinators in the lower mainland, the Western bumble bee population has significantly decreased due to the massive amounts of urbanization . The loss of habitat has resulted in an application for the Western bumble bee to be listed as an endangered species.  The use of pesticides is also an issue for bees and other pollinators, but the risks can be mitigated by not spraying while flowers are blooming, and pollinators are active. Pollinators located within agricultural areas also face the issue of blooming diversity. Within agricultural lands there will be an abundance of food for a short period of time as the crop is flowering. However, due to the tendency for farms to produce only a single crop there may be a lack of food during times when the crop is not flowering. It is crucial for flowers to be present throughout the year to provide bees with a steady food source and storage to survive winter months.

How we can help save the bees

The best way to help pollinator populations is to garden. Planting a large garden of native plants with a diverse blooming schedule provides excellent foraging habitat for pollinators. There are four tips to making a pollinator garden to help any pollinator.

  1. Have a diverse blooming schedule
  2. Plant your flowers in bunches
  3. Plants flowers that have easy access to pollen
  4. Do not use pesticides in your garden

It is essential to have flowers that bloom throughout the year, providing a diverse blooming schedule. Some species of bees are out in the early spring, while others will be pollinating late into the fall. It is also important to plant in groupings. Bees tend to be more attracted to bunches of flowers, instead of solitary plants. The best flowers to plant in your gardens are the ones that you can see the “naughty bits”. If you can see the anthers and the pollen they are most likely easy to pollinate and good for most pollinators. Most flowers will produce nectar, which is a valuable food source for bees and other pollinators. However, a few species of flowers such as lupines do not produce nectar which make them a less effective food source for bees. Try not to use pesticides in your private gardens. The use of pesticides, especially while plants are flowering can harm pollinators and can also impact the honey bees produce.

Another way to get involved is to increase the amount of native bee housing habitat on your property. Many of our native bees are small cavity nesters and do not make large hives. Things like mason bee homes and bee condos are excellent ways to give a bee a place to live. Leaving a pile of sticks and grass clipping in a corner of your yard can also act as habitat for bees. However, it is important to remember to occasionally clean out housing units. If left alone, parasites can build up increasing the rate of disease transmitted.