By Kathryn Stocks
This piece was written to go with the bee nest boxes that were going to be made by the children in our Earth Day event on April 25. This event may be cancelled but this information is still useful for the gardeners among us.
Did you know there are more than 360 species of native bees in Toronto? These bees range in size from extremely tiny to fairly large and they are primarily solitary. Unlike wasps and honeybees, they don’t tend to sting and if they do, you won’t even feel it. They play an important role in pollination.
Spaces for bees
About ⅔ of solitary nesting bees use tunnels in the ground to lay their eggs and ⅓ use hollow plant stems or tunnels in dead trees or fallen logs. If you have a nest box, it will add to the nesting places in your yard and should be attached to a post, fence or wall just above your flowers so the entrance is not blocked by vegetation. Try to make sure it gets morning sun.
Native plants are vital
One in every three bites of food we eat relies on bees for pollination and they need continuous access to flowers from spring to fall. Native plants that are locally grown and pesticide-free are the best thing you can provide to help conserve these important pollinators. Plant them in groups in your garden. Popular native wildflowers include: Black-eyed Susan, Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Nodding Onion, Mountain Mint, Wild Columbine, Milkweed, Wild Bergamot and Pearly Everlasting. Two nearby native plant sales are planned for June 6 at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate and for June 28 at the Guild Inn Estate.
Nesting and foraging
An average backyard garden may contain more than 50 species of bees, with some nesting and foraging there and others visiting for pollen and nectar. Native bees don’t make honey because they overwinter in a dormant state. Only honey bees make and store honey for overwintering.
Native bees typically overwinter in cavities, dry stems, rotting logs or underground tunnels. Since bees may be overwintering in the hollow stems or pieces of wood in your yard, don’t be too quick to put those items out for yard waste collection this spring. Give the bees time to leave first. This usually happens in spring or early summer.
Toronto’s Official Bee
Did you know that Toronto’s Official Bee is the metallic green sweat bee Bicoloured Agapostemon? This bee is easy to identify because it has a bright green head and thorax. You’ll see it buzzing around the flowers in your garden if you watch closely.
For more information on bees in our city, visit livegreentoronto.ca