The Quarterly Buzz
Updated: Mar 26
Newsletter of the Native Bee Society of British Columbia December 2022
Volume 3 | Issue 4
Editors-in-chief: C. Thuring & M. Marriott
Contributors: Sky Jarvis, Elaine Sedgman, Valerie Huff, Bonnie Zand, Christine Thuring
Fly Straight to Article:
NBSBC 2022 Annual General Meeting
This year we marked the fourth Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Native Bee Society of BC. Held on the evening of Monday, November 24, 2022, the AGM was hosted over Zoom by Erin Udal, with tech support from board member Jen Woodin. The in-coming and outgoing Secretaries, Sky Jarvis and Christine Thuring, tag-teamed on taking notes and recording attendance. With over 30 people in attending, featuring an even mix of board and general members, it was an engaged and fun evening!
The AGM opened with a heartfelt land acknowledgement by Marika Ai-Li, in which she brought to life some of the indigenous teachings she has learned from her teachers. Lori Weidenhammer and Paula Cruise provided an annual review on the business of the society, including programming on education and outreach, a summary of the Quarterly Buzz, the NBSBC newsletter, as well as fundraising initiatives and upcoming projects.
Elections were done by poll; all positions were uncontested. Check out the profiles of our 2023 Directors here.
The new executive team that will lead the society in 2023 includes:
Chair (President): Christine Thuring
Co-chair (Vice-president): Paula Cruise
Treasurer: Nikki Donkersley
Secretary: Sky Jarvis
The board of directors comprises 10 members at large, including Lori Weidenhammer, Marika Ai-Li, Bonnie Zand, Maureen Marriott, Lincoln Best, Valerie Huff, Erin Udal, Jen Woodin, Neill McCallum, Tamara Litke. Gratitude was expressed to those stepping down from the Board: Jennifer Lipka, Leslie Williams, Miranda Moll, and founding president, Sarah Johnson.
Following the elections, Treasurer, Nikki Donkersley, provided a yearend review of financials. It’s been affirmed, the society is in good shape! Bonnie Zand then provided highlights from the Native Bee Study Group, which was as entertaining as it was informative. This study group takes place on the 4th Wednesday of each month. See Bonnie’s study group 2022 summary below.
Some items that came up in discussion included the following:
Pollinator Protection Conference (October 2023).
LinkedIn: suggestion that the NBSBC establish a profile (seeking a volunteer to manage social media).
Ideas for grants: Microscopes and safari supplies; mini collections for field trips.
Bee Safari hosted by Linc near Penticton in mid-June 2023 (who’s in?).
Volunteer involvement: need a coordinator to facilitate support and engagement.
The chat was quite lively, including a proliferation of bee jokes. Here are our top three:
What’s a bee's favourite music?
What gemstones do bees love most?
What's a bee’s favourite sport?
See answers at the bottom of the newsletter.
Habitat fragmentation: Uncovering the truth about its beneficial effects on native bees
by Elaine Sedgman
Editors’ Note: We are delighted to publish this conversational and dynamic piece prepared by member Elaine Sedgman. Through her correspondences with Dr. Lenore Fahrig about fragmentation and biodiversity, Elaine shares with us some essential clarifications about the role and potential of habitat fragmentation on native bees and other wildlife. One key take-away we indulge in emphasizing is that habitat fragmentation is not the same as habitat loss, something that Dr. Fahrig consistently pointed out in her work. May we all dance with Elaine in the joy of knowing how to effectively create valuable pollinator habitat, minus the zombies! ~ Christine Thuring
As a Master Gardener passionate about native bees, I have been pushing gardeners for years to get rid of their lawns, rewild their yards and create more pollinator habitat. In autumn 2022, I corresponded with Dr. Lenore Fahrig, who affirmed that indeed, every little bit counts. I wanted to share my experiences with this community, as it is relevant to anyone wishing to support native bees and their populations.
Dr. Lenore Fahrig is a landscape ecologist and conservation biologist of distinction, and a Professor at Carlton University since 1991. She and her students study the effects of landscape structure on various forms of biodiversity, and on the abundance, distribution and persistence of wildlife populations. The amount and kinds of land cover, as well as its spatial arrangement, are important components of her studies.
“My research on habitat fragmentation demonstrates the cumulative conservation value of small habitat patches, and empowers small-scale conservation efforts by individuals and communities." The Fahrig Lab.
Fahrig has won many honours and awards, including Guggenheim Fellow and, more recently, Canada's most prestigious scientific award, the Herzberg Prize Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.
In November 2022, a news article and interview about the Herzberg Prize made me sit up and take notice. In fact, I danced around the kitchen when I read some of Dr. Fahrig's statements. One excerpt, from the Globe & Mail: “…if you have a whole bunch of little patches (of landscape), it can be as valuable or even more valuable than having one large area of the same total size” (Semeniuk, 2022). In a similar interview on CBC Radio she said, “Every bit of natural habitat is important in some way for biodiversity... it does add up to a big impact in terms of protecting species.”
But then I stopped and asked, “How can this be? Everything I have read on habitat fragmentation and bee diversity has been negative!” Thus began our correspondence.
I reached out and asked Dr. Fahrig about Beverly Rathcke’s paper, in which the latter asserts that “habitat fragmentation can clearly disrupt plant-pollinator interactions and threaten the local persistence of plants and pollinators” (Rathcke, 1993).
Fahrig’s response (via email, October 26, 2022):
The paper that you attached is really about the effects of habitat loss, not habitat fragmentation itself (even though they use the word fragmentation). We do see lower bee diversity when we have less bee habitat. However, to ask about the effect of habitat fragmentation itself, we need to compare bee diversity across different landscapes that have the same amount of habitat, but vary in how fragmented that amount of habitat is, i.e. is the habitat in a few large patches or many small ones? As far as I am aware, no-one has directly tested this for bees. However, if bees are like most other groups of species, I would predict that their diversity is higher across a large group of small habitat patches than across a small group of large habitat patches.
Although this hasn’t been directly tested, we have done some related work. We studied the effect on bee diversity of average crop field size, across different 1x1-km areas (“landscapes”). For the same amount of cropped land, we find higher diversity of wild bees when the fields are smaller. This is indirect evidence for a positive effect of fragmentation, because in landscapes with small fields, the natural habitat also tends to be in small patches. (See Fahrig, 2015)
It turns out that Fahrig has been researching habitat fragmentation for 40 years. Her early work led to her 2003 paper, Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Biodiversity, which is the most cited paper on habitat fragmentation in the world. In this paper she addressed the difference between the terms habitat loss and habitat fragmentation:
“I suggest that the term “fragmentation” should be limited to the breaking apart of habitat. Habitat loss should be called habitat loss; it has important effects on biodiversity that are independent of any habitat fragmentation per se. Habitat fragmentation should be reserved for changes in habitat configuration that result from breaking apart of habitat, independent of habitat loss.” (Fahrig, 2003)
Her 2017 update of this paper reaffirmed her findings. She stated in her conclusions:
“…most authors still assume that the effects of habitat fragmentation independent of the effects of habitat loss are generally negative… The results of this review indicate that such statements are in fact false. Although habitat loss is, without doubt, one of the most significant causes of biodiversity decline, the significant responses to habitat fragmentation independent of habitat amount are rare and mostly positive.” (Fahrig, 2017a).
Unfortunately, as Fahrig asserts, the idea that habitat fragmentation is inherently bad still lives on as a “zombie idea” (Fahrig, 2017a). Indeed, this false view is promoted by popular writers such as Douglas Tallamy. In his recent book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Back Yard, (Timber Press, 2019) Tallamy quotes D. Saunders, stating that “…nearly every species that has been studied shows negative effects from carving their habitat into pieces, even when those pieces are large” (Saunders et al.1991). Via email (Nov.10, 2022), however, Dr. Fahrig affirmed that “[the Saunders] paper is really about the effects of habitat loss, rather than the effects of habitat fragmentation.” With his book, Tallamy envisions a practical, grassroot approach to conservation and describes how we can turn our yards into wildlife habitats. Unfortunately, his anathema to fragmentation does not serve that vision nor does it align with the science.
For myself, I will return to my happy dancing, because I know that we gardeners can make a difference. As Dr. Fahrig notes via email “The essential point is that every bit counts. A single homeowner switching out their lawn for natural habitat will not save all the bees, but it will contribute. If many homeowners do the same thing, then the total can add up to a big benefit for bee populations.”
For those interested in native bees specifically, and population ecology generally, I encourage us all to be vigilant when we encounter discussion of habitat fragmentation. Ask the question: Is this paper about habitat loss or habitat fragmentation? If we encounter writers promoting “zombie ideas” that should have been laid to rest many years ago, let’s challenge the lack of scientific rigour if that feels good! No matter what, let’s make sure we’re making a positive difference in our landscapes, by providing a diversity of habitat types!
To conclude this article, I’d like to share some images from Gardengate, an organic horticulture project in Kamloops that represents the ideas Fahrig was referencing in her 2015 paper. The 2.8 acres of Gardengate feature small, fragmented patches of natural habitat that, as shown below, support a wide diversity of wildlife. I've been observing this site for 10 years and I am continually astounded by the remarkable diversity of bees that these small patches can support. Gardengate promotes healthy eating and active living for persons with mental health issues.
[Use arrows on image to move to the next or previous photo.] All photos: Elaine Sedgman Image 1: Agapostemon texanus nesting in an area with natural sandy loam soil, without additional organic matter. (The most interesting point isn’t conveyed by the image: the neighbouring plot that received organic matter did not support any ground-nesting bees).
Image 2: Jesse Ritcey of the Kamloops Naturalist Club created a highly successful experimental plot of native plants.
Image 3: Master Gardeners grew an experimental plot of common annuals to assess pollinator abundance and preference. Image 4: Megachile foraging on a Gaillardia aristata in the native plant area. A great plant for the home garden.
Image 5: A diversity of wildlife is attracted to Gardengate.
Fahrig, L. (2003). Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Annual review of ecology, evolution, and systematics, 487-515.
Fahrig, Lenore et al. (2015). Farmlands with smaller crop fields have higher within-field biodiversity. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment. 200. February 2015, Pages 219-234
Fahrig, L. (2017 a) Ecological responses to habitat fragmentation per se. Annual review of ecology, evolution, and systematics, 48 1-23.
Rathcke, Beverly J., and Erik S. Jules. (1993) Habitat Fragmentation and Plant–Pollinator Interactions. Current Science, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 273–77. JSTOR
Semeniuk, I. Ecologist wins Canada’s top Science prize. (Oct. 2022) The Globe and Mail, p.A4.
Elaine Sedgman is an educator, artist, Master Gardener and the author/illustrator of a Bee Named BOB (2019) and Andrena a Mining Bee (2022).She completed the requirements for Apprentice Level Certification of the Oregon Bee Atlas Master Melittologist Program (2021) and is the Citizen Science Coordinator for Thompson Shuswap Master Gardeners, organizing workshops and pollinator counts with adults and children. The first thing she does on a summer morning is to brew a cup of tea and go searching for what’s buzzing in her garden.
Native Bees Needs: Winter Edition
by Valerie Huff