Spring has sprung.
And like everyone else, it seems, I was itching to get out and clean up the yard. I got out the rake and the machete – hey, I was really gung ho – to tackle a particularly messy area in the front yard. The thought was to fire smart the area and clear another garden plot at the same time.
When a bee started buzzing frantically about my ankles, I was surprised at first, thinking it was one of my honeybees.
It wasn’t. According to the experts, messy yards and gardens in the spring could be hosting nests of important pollinators, like wild bees and butterflies. In my haste to clean up the yard, I may have inadvertently destroyed a wild bee’s nest – something I still feel incredibly sad about, especially because they have enough to worry about without me adding to the mix.
Wild bees are facing constant threats to their populations, due to habitat loss, disease, pesticides and other issues like mites. Although we have more than 800 native bee species in Canada, each of them pollinating different plants at different times, at least some of the 483 recorded wild bee species in B.C. are considered endangered.
Finding a safe place to nest is a primary threat for wild bees, who lay their eggs in the spring. They are then turned into larva throughout the summer, cocooned in the fall and emerge as an adult the next spring.
The David Suzuki Foundation maintains bees are our most important pollinators, providing one-third of the food we eat. They allow wild plants to reproduce and produce berries, fruits and seeds. At least 30 per cent of the world’s crops and 90 per cent of all plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive.
We can’t afford to lose them.
But there’s some good news on the horizon: according to the experts, we can make a difference to these amazing creatures by creating bee-friendly habitats.
In most cases, we hardly have to lift a finger because the main thing is to leave a few patches of nature alone in a messy, beautiful state.
We can also plant bee-friendly flowers and let the dandelions have more than a few days in the sun before pulling out the weed-whacker.
I’m definitely going lighter on the rake these days. When it comes to spring cleaning in the garden, I will leave it to the bees to keep their own house.