Did you know that in addition to managed European honeybees, BC is also home to over 400 species of native bees! These species play a vital role as pollinators both for human crops, as well as for plants that provide food for birds and a diversity of other animals. Since the 1990s biologists have observed a decline in native bees, attributed to a combination of stressors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change.
Helping Bees on the Sunshine Coast
To help improve habitat for native pollinators on the Sunshine Coast, we have been working with community members to build pollinator gardens and construct and install bee boxes for the native Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia lignaria). This gentle, solitary, non-aggressive species is easy to raise, and is happy to be observed by humans. Unlike honey bees who live communally in hives, Mason Bees are solitary and live in cavities. Mason Bees emerge from their cocoons in late March when early spring flowers are opening, and live their entire adult lives from March until June. During this time the female bees mate, forage for pollen and nectar, and lay eggs within their nest cavities. Each egg is laid on top of a pollen-nectar lump and then partitioned off into a distinct chamber within the tunnel with a mud wall. Inside each nest cell, the egg hatches into a larval bee which feeds on its pollen-nectar lump. When full grown, the larva rests, then spins a cocoon, transforms into a pupa, and by summer’s end develops into an adult bee. These adult bees overwinter within their cocoons before hatching and emerging the following spring.
Super Pollinator! If you raise Mason Bees, your fruit trees and gardens will be very happy! The Blue Orchard Mason Bee is an exceptionally efficient pollinator. It has been estimated that 97% of flowers visited by a Mason Bee are pollinated and that one female Mason Bee does the pollination work of 100 honey bees!
SUPPORTING our Bee Stewards
We help our bee stewards on the Sunshine Coast by:
- Providing bee houses and bee house building workshops
- Providing starter cocoons through our Bee Sharing Program
- Helping community groups build native bee gardens
- Offering annual fall workshops to help people remove cocoons from their boxes and clean them for safe winter storage
You Can Help Native Bees!
- Maintain Natural Habitat: Many native bee species nest singly in soil, rotting wood or hollow stems. Do not disturb these habitat features.
- Plant a Pollinator-friendly Garden: Provide a diversity of plants that bloom over a long period of time; Include flowers of all different colours, shapes, and sizes; plant local native plant species; and never use insecticides. In addition to native bees, your garden will support other pollinators too, including butteries, moths, flies and beetles!
- Raise Your Own Bees: Put up a bee house and care for a native species, like the Blue Orchard Mason Bee. Please contact us if you would like to become a bee steward. We can help you obtain a bee house and starter cocoons.