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SEEING GREEN 032: Bee Aware: Our Food Bonds on a Bounty of Buzzing Bees Between Blooms

Seeing GreenThere is no getting around it.  In spite of our urban, techno world we still depend on the natural world, that we are a part of, for our sustenance.  Over one-third of our diets —fruit, vegetables, seeds and
nuts— depends on pollination.

As we savour that tomato sauce or bite into that apple we need to give some thought to the bees we have to thank.  In a healthy ecosystem bees, as our most effective pollinators, need nectar from flowers to live and the flowers need the pollen that the bees spread as they go from flower to flower in order to produce the foods that we enjoy.

The dramatic decline in insects and pollinators world wide has brought increased awareness of food security and renewed calls for strategies and actions to help these struggling creatures.

While managed bees like the introduced honeybee that are used for agriculture and commercial production of honey have been given a lot of attention lately, it is our wild native bees that are the most effective pollinators and that are in decline and at increased risk of extinction.  While honeybees can be replaced and moved, our native species, once lost, cannot be replaced. Urban Nature 031 moved

In our backyard gardens, the fruit and vegetables are pollinated mostly by native bees that have co-evolved here for over 100 million years.  But less and less habitat is available for our native bees to survive.

Most of the habitat they need —native, locally grown, organic flowering plants, green spaces, bare soil, leaf piles and brush or logs— have been eliminated in our urban setting by more dense development and lawns and gardens that have been increasingly converted to concrete, gravel, brick or mulch, making it impossible for bees to forage, nest, or overwinter.

Toronto’s native bee species that are at risk of extinction include the rusty-patch bumble bee, the gypsy cuckoo bumble bee and the yellow-banded bumble bee.

In the last year or two some promising efforts have being introduced to protect our bees.  The City of Toronto has just recently renewed its application to Bee City Canada (; this summer the David Suzuki Foundation ( has implemented a Butterflyway project in the Beaches butterflyway.; and the City of Toronto has developed a draft plan this year (Toronto’s Pollinator Protection Strategy: Draft Priorities and Actions) on which it is seeking input from the public.  (To access the strategy and its survey see:  These plans are to encourage and enhance habitat and corridors, rethink some practices of mowing and mulch use, develop partnerships, incentives and educational opportunities.

Providing habitat to pollinators and protecting the biodiversity and life-giving services they provide means we need to dramatically change how we garden and landscape.  Every person can contribute, whether it is a small container garden or a large backyard or institutional yard or garden.  It all makes a difference in the life around us.  As we munch away on food we get at local markets, or while visiting Taste of The Danforth this year or at restaurants featured in the Tastes of East York section of this issue, let’s remember that without our bees much of our food would not exist.

Hey Listen Up!