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Quarterly Newsletter for the Native Bee Society of British Columbia

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

March 2021

Volume 2 | Issue 1


Editors-in-chief: C. Thuring & M. Marriott

Contributors: M. Clausen, J. Ulrich, J. Thompson & M. Haynes, C. Thuring

Fly Straight to Article:


Bee-ing There

Our Second Annual General Meeting

by Martina Clausen

On Monday, November 30, 2020 the Native Bee Society of British Columbia hosted its second Annual General Meeting. As you may imagine, this Covid-friendly Zoom event was quite different from our first in-person AGM last year. Nevertheless, the meeting delivered an exciting and well-rounded program, including a year in review, the election of the board of directors, and a bumble bee workshop facilitated by Society president and bumble bee expert, Sarah Johnson. Overall, the event drew more than 50 participants.

To open the AGM, Lori Weidenhammer gave a thoughtful land acknowledgement. For those in Metro Vancouver, we acknowledged that we are fortunate to be able to gather on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish People, and the traditional ancestral lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Lori tied the land acknowledgement to the goals and activities of the NBSBC, highlighting that we have a responsibility caring for the natural and cultural history that we have inherited. There is a lot of work to do, which makes it even more important to move into the coming year in strong force!

All of the executives were re-elected, Sarah Johnson as president, Marika van Reeuwyk as vice-president and Chanta Ly as treasurer. Christine Thuring was elected as secretary, replacing Tyler Kelly who decided to step down after a year of incredible work and excellent contributions to the establishment and growth of the society.

To our delight, on top of confirming the existing board members we welcomed 11 new members to the board of directors, adding up to a strong board of 15 members in total. This surely will boost the capacity of the society for the coming year! After all the official items were resolved, it was time for the most anticipated part of the evening, the bumblebee workshop. Apparent by the numbers of participants, which was steady until the workshop was closing with a fun quiz, the meeting was a full success. We wish to thank everyone who joined us on our virtual AGM. We are looking forward to build, grow and connect with our community over the next year.

Bio Martina Clausen is an agroecologist with a background in environmental engineering. She has an MSc from UBC studying the conservation of native bees in agricultural landscapes. Martina is a returning board member with the Native Bee Society.


The Pollinator Link

To Be or Not To Be (Social): Flexible social behaviour in the BC native sweat bee, Halictus rubicundus

by Jens Ulrich

Some bees are social, some are solitary, and then some bees refuse to fit into our tidy ways of categorizing insect life. One such bee is Halictus rubicundus, one of BC’s many native sweat bees. This bee can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere (Soucy & Danforth, 2002) and is one of the most common BC species. Potentially contributing to the widespread distribution of this bee is its flexible foraging capability; H. rubicundus is associated with a diverse array of pollen and nectar sources, including plants in the Rosaceae (Rose), Asteraceae (Aster/Sunflower), and Apiaceae (Carrot) families (Pollinators of BC, SFU). Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this bee, however, is that some female H. rubicundus carry out their lives in solitude while others initiate and maintain social nests.

Whether solitary or social, H. rubicundus nests are always initiated by a single ‘foundress’ female (Yanega, 1993). Like most other Halictids, H. rubicundus foundresses construct their nests in the ground. H. rubicundus foundresses typically nest in closely packed aggregations, often reaching densities of >100 nests per m2. After initiating nest construction, a foundress spends several weeks foraging for pollen and nectar and laying a small brood of ~5-6 eggs (Yanega, 1990). The future of the nest reaches a juncture at this stage.

In social populations, the first brood consists entirely of females. Without an opportunity to mate after emerging, first brood females take up a life of servitude, beholden to the nest’s foundress and to their future sisters. They assume the role of pollen collection, while the foundress remains in the nest and lays a second, much larger brood of eggs. In contrast to the first brood, the second brood contains a mix of males and females that mate and disperse. The following spring, mated H. rubicundus females round out the life cycle by returning to the aggregation site, à la salmon returning to their respective spawning rivers, to found a new generation of nests. In solitary populations, the H. rubicundus foundress omits the intermediate brood. Instead, she produces a mix of males and females in her first brood that immediately mate and disperse after emergence (Yanega, 1990; Yanega, 1993). (See lifecycle diagrams for comparison).

As outlined above, the ratio of males to females dictates social structure of H. rubicundus populations (Yanega, 1993). Interestingly, though, female bees can choose the sex of each egg that they lay (Bull, 1981) and, therefore, sex ratios are only a proximal driver of sociality. Generally, it appears that day length has strong ties with H. rubicundus sex determination (Soucy & Danforth, 2002; Yanega, 1993). When day length is short (i.e. in spring), foundresses lay females eggs, and when day length is long (i.e. near the summer solstice), foundresses shift production towards male eggs. This means that foundresses that emerge early in the season produce a female-dominated first cohort that places the nest on a social trajectory. This contrasts with foundresses that emerge late in the season that experience long day lengths and consequently produce a mix of males and females in the first brood. A foundress that emerges as late as June likely does not have enough time left in the growing season to produce two broods, and so it’s more beneficial for her to produce a few reproductive offspring as quickly as possible, rather than building up a caste of workers to assist with the payout of a larger second brood. Thus, it appears that sociality controlled by day length may have evolved given that it maximizes the production of reproductive offspring given the environment in which a population is situated (Soucy & Danforth, 2002; Yanega, 1993). Indeed, social populations of H. rubicundus can be found in areas with mild winters where foundresses can emerge earlier in the year, for example, in Vancouver, BC; in contrast, solitary populations of H. rubicundus are typical in northern latitudes or at high elevations, for example, in the Canadian Rockies (Soucy & Danforth, 2002).

As always, biological patterns are complex, and the social-solitary binary is not hard and fast. Some foundresses may produce one or two males in the first brood, which allows a subset of females in a population to mate and depart from the worker (Yanega, 1993). Especially in environments that straddle the warm/cool axis, populations may contain a mix of social and solitary nests (Yanega, 1993). Genetic factors mediate the relationship between day length and sex determination, and this relationship is likely further modified by environmental factors such as resource limitation (Soucy & Danforth, 2002).

Although H. rubicundus remains common, stable populations depend on steady supply of food and nesting habitat. Maintaining patches of soil that have low vegetation cover and high incident sunlight provides good opportunity for H. rubicundus and other ground nesting bees to construct their homes. Because pesticides often end up in the soils where these bees live, limiting pesticide application in lawns, gardens, parks, and agricultural systems will allow these wonderful native bees to continue to thrive in BC and beyond.


1. Soucy, S.L. and Danforth, B.N., 2002. Phylogeography of the socially polymorphic sweat bee Halictus rubicundus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae). Evolution, 56(2): 330-341.

2. Yanega, D., 1993. Environmental influences on male production and social structure in Halictus rubicundus (Hymenoptera: Halictidae). Insectes Sociaux, 40(2): 169-180.

3. Yanega, D., 1990. Philopatry and nest founding in a primitively social bee, Halictus rubicundus. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 27(1): 37-42.

4. Bull, J.J., 1981. Coevolution of haplo-diploidy and sex determination in the Hymenoptera. Evolution, 35(3): 568-580.


Jens Ulrich is a PhD student at UBC in the Plant-Pollinator and Global Change Lab. His research focuses on wild bee ecology and pollination ecology. He is a new board member of the Native Bee Society.

Photos: Jens Ulrich (H. rubicundus on Spirea spp.), Valerie Huff (H. rubincundus on Camas spp.)


The Buzz

Listening/ Audio Recommendations

by Christine Thuring

Bee lovers! If you enjoy listening to podcasts, make sure you’re subscribed to PolliNation. This podcast from Oregon State University Extension Service tells the stories of researchers, land managers and concerned citizens who are making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. The host is our friend Andony Melathopoulos, who is Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health Extension at the Department of Horticulture of Oregon State University.

The podcast was started to link up people and programs in Oregon, but it has a broader Pacific Northwest focus, including a disproportionate number of guests from Canada. Andony says, "My program staff at OSU is 50% Canadian, so we always have an eye out to what is going on in BC and Canada". The podcast straddles a wide range of topics, including managed and native bees, guests like legislators, communication specialists, foresters, and also landscapers, beekeepers and scientists. The weekly show is approaching 170 episodes and started in May 2018. Episode 145 featured an interview with our president, Sarah Johnson, about the Native Bee Society of BC; and Episode 163 featured new board member, Ian Tait’s, 2020 year in review.


Christine is a plant biologist and environmental scientist with a passion for enhancing conditions for biodiversity. She has a PhD in Landscape Ecology from the University of Sheffield, and teaches about green roofs and walls at BCIT. She is a returning board member, currently serving as Secretary.


Native Bees Needs

Spring Gardening Tips for Native Pollinators

by Joshua Thompson and Melissa Haynes

Native pollinators need our help. By integrating their needs into the design and care of our gardens, we can create safe and nourishing oases for them. Fortunately, addressing bees needs in your own property has a symbiotic effect: your garden will be healthier and pest-free, leading to better crops, healthier plants and soil! This column provides suggestions for ensuring the health and biodiversity of bees (and other pollinators) over the course of the year. In this spring issue, we focus on important things you can do throughout the spring to attract and benefit them.

  1. Leave your winter garden ‘messy’ with leaves and plant debris until May, when temperatures have risen and hibernating bees become active again. Although this may be tough for those itching to get gardening, keep in mind that about 70% of native bees are ground-nesters. Please hold off until May, or you risk digging up bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects before they are ready. When it comes time to clean your garden, do so gently so as not to disrupt nesting sites.

  2. Allow your garden to be natural, as it would be without human interference, and avoid all pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, weed killers. Be wary of ‘organic’ treatments that may be toxic to pollinators. Always ensure seeds and plants come from reputable sources and don’t contain systemic neonicotinoids, which are fatal to pollinators. Excellent native plant suppliers in coastal southern BC include PlanBeeNativePlants, Coast Salish Plant Nursery, Saanich Native Plants and NATS Nursery for larger orders. Please share your favourite nurseries on our social media.

  3. Leave the dandelions. Labelled as ‘weeds’ by chemical manufacturers these herbal plants are a lifeline for pollinators when little else is blooming. If you must remove them, do so by hand.

  4. Plant native species, which are essential to the regional ecology and life cycles of native insects. Make sure to provide plants that will flower in early spring, when resources are scarce, as well as species or nativars that flower through summer and autumn. Note that trees are fantastic resources for native bees, both for forage and nesting materials like resin. Further to forage, many pollinators need their host plants to complete their life cycles. If you see chew marks in leaves, don’t fret, you are feeding babies! Native grasses may also offer nesting sites and provide seeds to birds in the fall. Native plants are easy to grow and adapted for our wet winters and dry summers. Excellent options for coastal BC include: Mahonia nervosa, Common camas (Camassia quamash), Goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata), Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa), Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum), Coastal Kinnikinnick (Arcostaphylus uva-ursi), Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Douglas Aster (Aster subspicatus), Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Hardhack (Spirea douglasii), Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor). Source: David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway Project. See table below for more suggestions.

  5. If you want a meaningful lawn alternative, consider replacing grass with clover (bonus: drought tolerant), a special bee mix, or similar beneficial substitution. From a bee's perspective, replacing turf with flowering plants transforms the landscape from a pollinator desert to an oasis and smorgasbord. West Coast Seeds has excellent options.


Joshua Thompson established PlanBee Native Plants in order to make native plants more accessible and to support our local pollinators and wildlife. He is a new board member of the Native Bee Society.

Melissa Haynes is a Master Gardener who is passionate about nature conservation and connecting communities through nature and community building projects. She is a new board member of the Native Bee Society.

Photos: Sarah Johnson


Art Contest

Do you love native bees and drawing, painting or arts and crafts?

Then join us in celebrating the bee-autiful diversity of native bees in an art contest! All ages and skill levels are encouraged to submit their creations.

Submitted art will be showcased on our website and social media AND potentially win a bumble bee house to attract queen bees to your yard or garden! All participants will be entered into a draw to win a hand-made bumble bee nest box, ready for next season. One lucky winner will be chosen at RANDOM. Winner must be able to pick up the prize in the lower mainland.

We will be collecting submissions from now until April 30, 2021, at midnight PST. Art must focus on native bees from BC, preferably from your region but feel free to explore all of BC’s native bees for inspiration. To be eligible to win the bumble bee nest box, you must submit your art via this google doc form.

Please make sure to include all the following required information along with your submission:

  • First and last name

  • Email

  • Permissions

  • Title and description

  • Image or PDF of art

Looking forward to seeing and sharing all your beautiful art!


Find us on:


Instagram: bcnativebees

Twitter: @BCNativeBees

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