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The Quarterly Buzz

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Newsletter of the Native Bee Society of British Columbia March 2022

Volume 3 | Issue 1


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

Contributors: Marika van Ai-Li, Martina Clausen, Paula Cruise, Lincoln Best, Jen Hayes, Lori Weidenhammer, Sarah Johnson, Sarah Peebles, Bonnie Zand

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Annual General Meeting and Board Elections

by Marika van Ai-Li

The Native Bee Society of BC’s third AGM was held on the evening of February 7, 2022. This was one of our most thrilling AGM’s yet, gracefully facilitated by outgoing President Sarah Johnson.

Incoming Co-President, Lori Weidenhammer opened with a territorial acknowledgment, shining light on Indigenous communities and pollinators and their interwoven stewardship of Camas and other plant relations since time immemorial. She acknowledged our responsibility as members of the Native Bee Society of BC to honor these relationships side by side through our work. Our outgoing Vice President, Marika van Ai-Li led us through our 2021 Year-in-Review, highlighting our activities from the previous year including community workshops and webinars, the birth of our popular NBSBC Bee Tracker on iNaturalist, several features on the radio and news media and three wonderful Quarterly Buzz newsletters.

Next was our formal AGM. Many of us were left sitting on the edge of our seats we voted in two new Co-Presidents and a treasurer, along with several new Members-at-Large. An exciting trend to witness is that our roots are spreading their reach - from K’ómoks territory (Fanny Bay), to snʕickstx tmxʷúlaʔxʷ territory (Castlegar) to Dënéndeh territory (Dawson Creek)! We warmly welcome Miranda Moll (Co-President) Nikki Donkersley (Treasurer), and Members-at-Large Bonnie Zand, Erin Udal, Sky Jarvis and Tamara Litke to our Board of Directors. Check out our new additions and continuing members here.

Lori Weidenhammer reviewed the successes and beautiful photography collected across the province from the NBSBC Bee Tracker across 2021. Check out all the fascinating submissions on iNaturalist. Lincoln Best highlighted some of the weirdest bees of BC, such as Diadasia australis (a cactus pollinator with few records in BC) and some of the rarest flowers - including the beautiful mariposa’s of the interior province- Lyall’s Mariposa (Calochortus lyallii), Three-spot Mariposa (C. apiculatus), and Sagebrush Mariposa (C. macrocarpus).

In closing, Jen Woodin walked us through some of the exciting upcoming events at NBSBC. Some recurring events to keep an eye out for this year will be our Community of Practice events and the BC Bee Tracker. The BC Master Melittologist program is also carrying a lot of steam (see Lincoln Best’s contribution below for more on this)! All 2022 events can be found on our event page. There’s been an inviting climate of enthusiasm and energy at all NBSBC gatherings so far this year... With many new NBSBC events and membership engagement opportunities springing up, we expect an abundance of bee buzz across the province in 2022.

Bio Marika van Ai-Li, former NBSBC Vice President and current member-at-Large, is the Manager of Programs & Stewardship at the Environmental Youth Alliance. She oversees EYA's habitat restoration projects, native plant nursery and environmental education programs for youth facing barriers. She has a BSc in Applied Biology, Plant & Soil Sciences from UBC. She is also a native bee educator who is passionate about community engagement, and has led a variety of research, restoration and citizen science projects relating to native bees over the past decade.


Research Corner

by Martina Clausen

We are pleased to feature an abstract from a recently published article by our board member Martina Clausen. The study was part of Martina’s MSc thesis for her degree in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Citation: Clausen, M.A., Elle, E., Smukler, S.M. 2022. Evaluating hedgerows for wild bee conservation in intensively managed agricultural landscapes. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 326, 107814, ISSN 0167-8809,

Declines in wild bee populations have highlighted the need for research on the ecological requirements of wild bees. Wild bees provide essential pollination services to both agricultural crops and wild flowering plant species. Wild bee species are facing numerous threats, primarily the loss of natural habitats. The Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust, a non-profit conservation organization in Delta, BC, incentivizes farmers to plant hedgerows consisting of native shrubs and trees on the edge of their production fields, mainly to create habitat for wildlife. In this study, the value of planted hedgerows was evaluated as foraging habitat for wild bees specifically. During the summers of 2015 and 2016, surveys examined bees and flowers in planted hedgerows, as well as remnant hedgerows and grass margins (two dominant habitats of field margins). The relationships between available floral resources and bee abundance and diversity, as well as bee-flower visitations, were analyzed and compared among these three habitat types.

UBC students collect wild bees with nets in grassy field margins in Delta, BC.
UBC students collect wild bees with nets in grassy field margins in Delta, BC.

Overall, wild bees collected in grass margins were more abundant and diverse compared to planted and remnant hedgerows. However, significant results were inconsistent between sampling methods and years, implying none of the habitat types stood out as clearly better. Bee-flower visitation records showed that bees primarily visited herbaceous species mostly found in grass margins (see Figure 1) while only a few of the recommended woody plant species for hedgerow plantings were visited.

Figure 1

Number of wild bee visitations by plant species from surveys in field margins in Delta, BC. The most visited plant species were Tufted Vetch (Viccia cracca) followed by Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus). Native plant species are indicated with *.

These results may serve to help improve field edge management for the conservation of wild bee species. If properly planned and managed, grass margins offer promise as valuable alternatives or additions to woody hedgerows for wild bee conservation.

Learn more about the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust.

Bio Martina Clausen is an agroecologist with a background in environmental engineering, originally from Switzerland. She has an MSc from UBC studying the conservation of native bees in agricultural landscapes and was a member of the development team for EYA’s Pollinator Citizen Science Program.


Bugs 101: "Insects are Arthropods with Wings"

What I Learned from a Free Online Entomology Course

by Paula Cruise

I’m a plant person, not a bee person. But one of my goals for 2022 is to register for the Master Melittologist Program with Oregon State University in order to improve my bee identification skills using anatomical features. The MM Program is an introductory, self-paced course of study on native bee biology and ecology that includes native bee specimen collection in the service of creating Oregon’s first Bee Atlas. There is considerable overlap in the bee populations of Oregon, Washington, and BC and OSU accepts out-of-state applicants. Indeed, there are a number of Master Melittologist apprentices in this province and the Native Bee Society is very fortunate to have Lincoln Best, a taxonomist and researcher with the Oregon Bee Atlas, on our Board of Directors.

My enthusiasm for insect pollinators outweighs my knowledge and while I do have a degree in environmental science from the last millennium and I am pretty sure I attended at least some of the entomology classes on offer, my insect memories really do not extend far beyond 6 legs, at least one pair of wings, and a pair of antennae. So I thought it best to invest some time in learning about basic insect biology before I delved into distinguishing the features of tergal and sternal segments and detecting the presence or absence of a pygidial plate. An online search for free entomology courses revealed that the educational platform Coursera offers Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions. I considered that maybe I was overqualified for a course with “Bugs 101” in the title. I was wrong.

Coursera is an open online education provider that works with universities and other organizations offering courses, certifications, and degrees in a variety of subjects. Taught by Dr. Maya Evenden and her associates at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science, Bugs 101 is presented in 12 modules, each one comprising 2-3 hours of on-demand videos, quizzes, and assignments. Users can select multiple languages, synchronize the text with the video script, and make Bugs 101 a for-credit course. While the course is designed to be completed over 12 weeks, learners can extend the deadlines as many times as needed.

The 12 modules commence with a look at the diversity of arthropods and where insects sit in the evolutionary tree along with their adaptations that allow them to inhabit and dominate nearly every ecosystem on Earth. By the end of Module 4, I had a good understanding of insect physiology and life cycles before learning about the role of insects in the human world as decomposers, pollinators, plant pests, and disease vectors. There are two modules on Integrated Pest Management and biological control before the course finishes with a discussion of insect conservation and the role of insects in art and culture.

The material is thoroughly yet concisely prepared and clearly presented via videos and graphics, with the narration available as a downloadable pdf. While the information is accessible to novice learners, I was impressed with the technical nature of the content and was challenged by the quizzes. Each module comes with optional extra reading so there are lots of opportunities for further inquiry. I enjoyed how the course focused on the relationships of insects in the human world and, while not everyone will feel the need to complete all 12 modules, I found the experience of journeying through the course highly informative and engaging. The section on insect leg adaptations for different habitats from running, swimming, jumping, digging to catching prey was particularly fascinating. I would recommend this course for anyone interested in the natural world as a stand-alone unit or as an introduction to bees and other insect pollinators.

Find out more about Coursera's Bugs 101: Insect-Human Interactions.

Find out more about Oregon State University's Master Melittologist Program below.


Paula Cruise (she/her/they) is a learner of the natural world, who is particularly curious about plant-pollinator relationships and how to share this knowledge with others. She is an active board member for the Native Bee Society of BC and for Hives for Humanity, two non-profits that seek to create equitable access to nature and meaningful opportunities to share in its gifts and in its stewardship. She is a recent settler on the Sunshine Coast in the shared space of xwésám (“when the water bubbles”) on the unceded land of the shíshálh people and stelḵáya (“place of the wolf”) on the unceded land of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh people. Besides being excited to meet the people, plants, and pollinators of this place, she is looking forward to growing lots of native flowers and tasty vegetables and taking long hikes and cold swims with her dogs, Bailey and Juno.


Master Melittologist Program

A Bee Club for People who Love Wild Bees

by Lincoln Best

This new online program hosted by the Oregon State University Extension Service is for anyone interested in going deeper into wild bee biology and ecology. The program is self-paced, and stepwise. There are 5 online modules covering the basics of wild bee field work and data collection, bee biology and ecology, and taxonomy and systematics. Beyond the online modules, there are numerous lectures and additional resources introducing the breadth of wild bee biodiversity. Catch a Buzz a monthly community zoom session provides additional opportunities for education and Q&A. Our monthly Out-of-State Mentor Session provides instruction on how to identify bees, lectures about wild bee biodiversity and floral relations, and allow you to connect with people in your area. In Oregon this training helps prepare Oregonians for the Oregon Bee Atlas. Currently there is no taxonomic support for specimen-based collections outside of Oregon, however the NBSBC hosts an excellent and very active iNaturalist project, the NBSBC Bee Tracker. This is a great way to scientifically document and learn about the hundreds of wild bee species in your area. To learn more about how we are supporting the program in BC, watch our program info session on YouTube.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Master Melittologist program at Oregon State University, view our website. That's where you can register to join a growing community of amateur and expert wild bee scientists.


Lincoln Best has joined the faculty of Horticulture at Oregon State University where he supports the Oregon Bee Atlas and Master Melittologist programs. He hosts an annual BC Native Bee Course in the southern Okanagan. Lincoln manages an international research portfolio as an environmental consultant working with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. He is interested in developing restoration solutions that optimize biodiversity in western North American ecosystems.


Natives vs Nativars: An Overview

by Jen Hayes

The USDA NRCS defines a native plant as “a plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem”. The word cultivar is an abbreviation of cultivated variety, which references specific varieties of plants that have been developed through plant breeding. Cultivars are typically named, which helps with their identification: perhaps you are familiar with ‘Roma’ tomatoes, or ‘Moonshine’ Yarrow, or ‘Apricot Nectar’ roses; these are all cultivars. A nativar, then, is a particular type of cultivar: a plant variety bred or selected from a wild-type native.

With the growing interest in native plant gardening (especially for wildlife), nativars have gained increasing attention for both their positive and potentially negative attributes. Starting with the positive, nativars may help resolve the slow growth of the native plant market. Many wild plants do not conform to retail expectations: they may not be scalable to nursery-level production; they may perform poorly in pots and on shelves. Nativars, in turn, can be bred for improvements where wild-types fall short. They are also bred for many of the same reasons that other ornamentals have cultivars: they possess traits we humans find aesthetically pleasing. Nativars are typically selections of wild-type natives with some sort of positive trait. They may display tolerance traits such as drought or disease resistance, or ornamental traits such as color, bloom size, or architecture. Though they are native ornamental plants, nativars do not undergo some of the more intense horticultural breeding practices, such as those required to develop blue roses or galaxy-patterned petunias.

The concerns that commonly arise in natives-vs-nativars conversations usually relate to ecological values. Though some ornamental traits can be achieved through changes in a single gene, these effects may alter the ecological value of the plant. Colour, for example, is a relatively simple gene. Is it safe to say then, that the same people and insects who love wild California poppies will love the semi-double Eschscholzia californica ‘XL Jelly Beans’? Perhaps not. Research projects, including my own in the Garden Ecology Lab at Oregon State University, typically seek to answer one question when comparing nativars and their wild relatives: Do native cultivars provide the same resources to wildlife as wild-type natives? Thus far, research seeking to answer this question has yielded mixed results. We have not yet established any clear patterns of pollinator preference across plant types, plant families, etc. Within a species, we can more confidently assess whether pollinators prefer wild type or cultivar. However, we cannot make general claims without further research.

Eschscholzia californica (wild type) E. californica ‘XL Jelly Beans’

Photo by Jen Hayes Photo courtesy of Territorial Seed Company

Why native plants are likely the best for native bees

When selecting plants, it is essential to consider the ecological relationship between bees and their host plants. Most bees require pollen and nectar for sustenance and for provisioning their nests. While it isn’t difficult to go to a nursery and pick out a plant that produces these resources, it’s important to consider how bees interact with those flowers while foraging. Cultivars that have extra petals (such as semi-doubles, doubles, and full doubles) often produce more pollen and nectar than single blooms, but the additional petals may actually inhibit bees from accessing a plant’s resources. This is why we typically see wild roses on pollinator planting lists: wild species have very open flowers, whereas traditional red roses are tightly wound with smaller openings. Any alterations in floral morphology may impact what types of bees are able to successfully forage from those flowers.

Another consideration is specialization. It is estimated that 30-50% of bees in North America are highly specialized, and of those specialists, 60% are quite rare. To support specialists, we should emphasize choosing plants associated with specialist pollinators. Since generalist bees can forage from a diversity of plant species, genera, and families, they are likely able to find the resources they require within a suite of plants chosen for specialists.