The Official Bee for Toronto: the metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens).
By Kathryn Stocks
Wild bees need our help! There’s a push on right now to encourage people to create pollinator-friendly gardens for them. The City of Toronto recently adopted a Pollinator Protection Strategy to support and sustain native pollinators. There’s a good reason for this when you consider that our backyard fruits and vegetables are pollinated mostly by wild bees, and they’re experiencing population declines due to habitat loss, disease and pesticide poisoning.
The amazing thing is that there are more than 360 species of bee in the Toronto area! Some are so tiny you don’t even know they are bees. Honeybees and bumblebees live in social colonies, but most wild bees are solitary. They don’t live in hives or make honey and they rarely sting people.
Two-thirds of wild bees are ground nesters and one-third are cavity nesters. The ground nesters lay their eggs in tunnels in the ground so leaving areas of bare soil in your garden can help them. The cavity nesters make nests in the hollow stems of dead plants and in tunnels in dead wood. You can help them by leaving cut plant stems lying in your garden.
Here are some other ways to help our solitary wild bees:
- Plant native plants. Some native bees can only feed on pollen from native shrubs and flowers. Single bloom varieties are preferable because the petals of double or triple bloom varieties can block access to pollen and nectar.
- Provide continuous bloom. Choose plants that bloom at different times from spring to fall and remove dead flower heads to encourage growth and extend the flowering season.
- Provide water. A bird bath or shallow dish of water with half-submerged rocks will help bees quench their thirst.
- Avoid pesticides. Bees are insects so using pesticides will kill them.
- Keep it natural. Converting a lawn or garden to concrete, gravel, mulch or artificial turf reduces valuable food and nesting sites.
Habitat creation is key to supporting Toronto’s pollinators and it is the foundation of the city’s Pollinator Protection Strategy. Resources to assist residents are available at livegreentoronto.ca.
Toronto’s Official Bee
City Council has selected an Official Bee for Toronto: the metallic green sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens). It is a solitary, ground-nesting bee that emerged from gardens across the city last month. With the goal of raising awareness about Toronto’s diverse native bees, the green sweat bee was selected because it is common, easy to recognize, and because it welcomes other bees and shares communal nests in the ground.