The decline of the bee has been all the buzz all as of late. Bees, the invaluable components of agriculture and biodiversity are our friends that pollinate flowers, fruits and vegetables; they are what our crops depend on. The loss of bees is known as “colony collapse disorder” – in some regions, bee populations have declined by as much as 90%, and it’s only getting worse with every passing year. Despite this dire news, there are several things, both big and small, that we can all do to improve bee health in our communities. Read on to learn how different cities are adding bee meadows to their communities to help the bees while creating livable, invigorating spaces for people to be, like the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens in Wolfville, where educational signage helps you identify different species and learn of their special roles in biodiversity!
Here’s an idea of what’s being done around the world to improve bee health!
Bee Bus Stops
In the city of Utrecht, over 300 bus shelters have been converted into bee meadows by simply transforming the roofs into green roofs of grass and wildflowers. The benefits of these shelters include helping to grow the bee population, pollinating flowers, capturing fine dust particles, storing and filtering rainwater, and providing cooling during hot days. Beyond helping the bees, these shelters create spaces of interest and fascination, and help people stay in tune with nature. These low maintenance roofs are inspiring homeowners to install green roofs of their own. Utrecht also aims to soon be the home of the world’s largest Bee Hotel!
Planning for Bees
Why plan for bees in cities? Bees need green space to exist. In many cities, however, green space is isolated into patches, trapping wildlife and preventing them from moving from one patch to the next. Movement is essential for wildlife to find food, resources, and other members of their species. Thoughtfully designing our cities to be made up of corridors for bees and other wildlife helps to connect green spaces and allows for greater pollination and bee health. By planting more wildflowers and paving less, we can help connect bees and wildlife to each other and improve the overall biodiversity in our communities! Neighbourhoods in the UK are creating “Bee Streets” to help pollinators out by creating wildflower corridors and patches along their streets. Click here to see a step by step guide on starting your own Bee Street! Building a Bee Street can help you connect with your neighbor, spend time outdoors, and beautify your community.
Cities are full of hard, unwelcoming surfaces when it comes to bee habitats. Fortunately, many cities are reconsidering how we design our cities and our overapplication of concrete. Boulevards provide a great opportunity for bees when planted with wildflowers. Due to the linear form of boulevards, they also provide a great corridor option to link green spaces to one another. Abandoned railway lines are also a great opportunity to create corridors of wildflowers. Check out this boulevard in the UK that not only creates a beautiful meadow to look at when caught in rush hour, but provides home to several species of wildlife. Making these typically mundane and unattractive spaces beautiful and active with wildlife, we can improve our sense of belonging and wonder in our communities.
What small changes can you make?
As the decline of bee populations is 100% attributed to human activity, many people are interested in learning what they can do to improve bee populations around your home. Here are some tips for improving bee habitats around your home:
Thinking about using pesticides in your garden to ward off unwanted pests? You may want to think again; pesticides become addictive to bees just like nicotine to humans, and result in premature death. Pesticides are a huge contributor to bee decline, so you may want to think twice before applying pesticides or insecticides to your garden. Instead, consider using a harmless, bee-beneficial solution, such as growing plants that are unattractive to pests, but appealing to bees, like borage and lavender. Pesticides known as neonicotinoids are particularly harmful to bees as they can disrupt the bee’s food-finding abilities, cause memory and communication confusion, and weaken the immune system.
Meadows over Mowing
Try substituting your lawn for a meadow of wildflowers. Not only does this option increase the liveability for bees and butterflies and look beautiful, it also requires significantly less maintenance than lawns. Besides, who doesn’t love the quiet sound of a summer night sans mower?
Tip: Use native wildflower species as these will have the greatest impact on bee and butterfly populations.
Keep it Natural
Slugs, beetles, snails and other critters are normal and a sign of healthy gardens. If you must keep these friends away, consider an all-natural option, like lining the edge of your garden with salt or fill a shallow cup with beer to protect your plants from slugs and snails. Some other natural options include applying corn gluten to the base of weeds as an herbicide or spraying a mix of kaolin clay and water to stems, leaves and plant bases to protect them from nibbles.
Tip: spray at night as bees will be busy pollinating during the day.