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BC Native Bee Course 2023: Observing bees in the field

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

by Christine Thuring

The Okanagan is Canada's biodiversity hotspot. Many species reach their southern or northern limits in the Okanagan, including bees but also birds, reptiles, and plants. What a treat to spend two days exploring the sagebrush grasslands with bee nets!

Courtesy Jeanette Smiles.

The field component of the BC Bee Course was held in the hills around Burnell Lake, near Oliver, BC. The timing was calculated to align with seasonality of plants and bees. By mid- June, the lower elevation plants are almost done flowering, while the higher elevation plants were just starting. Similarly, spring bees were winding down while summer bees were getting started.

Lincoln Best has been visiting and sampling the area for years and was generous to share it with course participants. However, the area is not protected, which means the habitats and the species they support are unprotected. A single off-road ATV incident could take out the nesting site of an entire population of specialist bees.

Lincoln Best brought us to his happy place! Courtesy Lori Weidenhammer

A frequent description of the BC Bee Course was that it's a "deep dive" and can be mentally exhausting. In the lab, for example, we were encouraged to pace ourselves and take breaks as needed. In the field, witnessing such a diversity of bees also had an effect. I knew I'd reached my limit when I started taking landscape photographs and staring at flowers or patches of soil, regardless of insects.

The landscape offers lovely breaks from netting and identification. Courtesy Mandy Brown

The two field days (Sat and Sunday) united all course participants. Being limited to max 15 people, the lab components were offered on either side of the field days. Several BC Master Melittologists came along, too. Course instructors, Linc Best and Bonnie Zand, divided their time between the groups. It was all very nicely organized, thanks to Marika Ai-Li's excellent coordination support!

The two field days were a blast! Credit Christine Thuring.

Since a picture's worth a thousand words, the blog features images from the field days.

Lunch break. Courtesy Jeanette Smiles

Amazing macro images courtesy of Lori Weidenhammer.

Brilliant macro images courtesy of Aidan Hersch.

Courtesy Jeanette Smiles.

Morning muster of the BC Bee School convoy. Courtesy Marika Ai-Li.

This (toy store) viewing jar allows measurement, magnification and joy! Courtesy Marika Ai-Li.


Christine is a founding member and current co-chair of the Native Bee Society. She is a plant ecologist and Green Roof Professional, and a participant of the 2023 MeadowMakers Program. This was her first BC Bee School.

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