The beautiful and buzzing mixed-wood Acadian forest of the Maritimes is dependent on pollinators such as bumblebees. The native black cherry and basswood trees require insect pollination, as do native shrubs such as hazelnut and staghorn sumac, native flowers such as spring beauty and trilliums, and native berries such as blueberries and cranberries.
Scientists point to habitat destruction, pesticides, pollution, parasites, viruses and climate change as likely reasons for continuing declines in the diversity and abundance of insect pollinators such as bumblebees in eastern Canada.
Why should we care? World-renowned biologist, E.O. Wilson, said,”it’s the little things in this world–literally at our feet, or buzzing around our heads–that keep us alive.” It is estimated that approximately three-quarters of a typical North-American diet depends on pollination. Here in New Brunswick, blueberries are the second-largest cash crop after potatoes. New Brunswick blueberry growers earned $19.8 million in 2008. Blueberries are most efficiently pollinated by native pollinators such as bumblebees.
The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, a long time defender of natural ecosystems and local agriculture, is working to protect our native pollinators and our food security.
The Conservation Council encourages people to set up bee boxes and plant pollinator-friendly flowers in their backyards.
A bee box can simply be made by drilling holes into a piece of wood. A quick search online will provide many different instructions on how to make a bee box.
Seed bombs are balls of 1 part mixed wildflower seeds, 3 parts compost, 5 parts red powdered clay and a few drops of water. After the seed bombs are made, the seed bombs are dried for 24 hours to harden and protect the seeds inside. The seed bombs can be planted in your garden, backyard or in neglected patches of land in your neighbourhood.
Planting bee-friendly gardens of nectar and pollen-producing plants is critical for the survival of the bumblebees. Wildflowers are disappearing under pavement and gardens are planted with exotic and hybrid species that produce little or no nectar and pollen. Bumblebees eat only nectar and pollen. They depend on different kinds of flowers from March to September. Bumblebees like such wildflowers as Marsh Marigolds, Golden Ragworts and Harlequin Blue Flags in the early growing season, and Joe Pye Weed and Smooth Asters in the late growing season. Don’t be afraid to make your garden a little messy. Dead snags and leaf litter provide ground nesting sites while plants provide food and shelter for our pollinators.
It’s time to halt and reverse the downward spiral of our live-giving species and ecosystems. Let’s bring life back to our backyards!