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Win-Win-Win: Partnership with City of North Vancouver launches BC Bee Atlas

What began as a question – how does urban landscape management impact pollinators?  – has turned into a partnership supporting the new BC Bee Atlas.

 

The NBSBC is pleased to announce an exciting partnership with the City of North Vancouver (CNV) that will provide baseline data on native bees using an urban park, while also supporting the newly launched BC Bee Atlas.  

 

Native Bees in the City of North Vancouver (CNV)

It began in early January with an email from a Park Operations manager, who extended a frequently asked question to us. Paraphrasing it slightly, “Does changing my mowing practices have a positive effect on the diversity and/ or abundance of pollinators?” (See our 2022 article about “No Mow May”). An email thread ensued, coordinated by three NBSBC directors, with discussion about how the Society could help CNV learn more about their pollinators and improve habitat management for them. 

 

As a Society, we proposed leveraging our local Master Melittologist (MM) students, whose training from Oregon State University (OSU) requires outreach as well as sampling. As part of the training, MM collections are validated by our BC Bee Atlas taxonomists, which adds those specimens to the growing bee-plant dataset generated by the BC Bee Atlas. 


After some constructive dialogue, the NBSBC was contracted to collect baseline information on native bees currently using CNV parks. The focus in on Grand Boulevard, a park that has been treated with a variety of meadow interventions in 2023. We came up with a win-win-win arrangement, which: 

  1. segues with the Society’s aspiration to create a BC Bee Atlas (more on that below);

  2. provides empirical guidance to support CNV in creating the best pollinator habitat possible;

  3. supports MM students in their training, ensuring the bees they collect fulfill their potential.


Sampling Grand Boulevard

The initiative launched on Sat. May 4th, when seven Master Melittologists and three NBSBC board members met with three CNV staff at Ron Perrault park for an inaugural training. After an introduction on sampling methods and protocols by MM instructor Bonnie Zand, the group walked the site and collected the initial samples that will be used to determine bee diversity.


The sampling areas are on Grand Boulevard, a popular north-south boulevard park consisting mainly of mown grass and specimen trees with walking paths, benches and picnic areas. Grand Boulevard also features two Butterflyway Gardens created under the David Suzuki Foundation program, which contain diverse plantings with many native plants and some mason bee boxes. The CNV also has an experimental “meadow” area that was seeded with a “Bee Friendly Seed Mix”  with reduced mowing frequency, and plans to build another seeded meadow.

Every MM is equipped with a net, collection vials, labels and all the necessary supplies to create museum quality bee specimen records.  As part of the sampling process, every bee specimen collected is associated with the plant the bee was visiting when collected (its floral host). Once identified and labeled, MM students send their specimens to the program taxonomist for verification. After that, each specimen is recorded for posterity.



Modeled after the impressive Oregon Bee Atlas, the BC Bee Atlas is a record of the times and places that native bee species have been seen throughout the province, as well as the plants they have been feeding on (their floral relations). BC has the greatest diversity of bees in all of Canada and is home to around 600 species of native bees. The reason we need a Bee Atlas is because our native bees are under threat. We have a good sense of why wild bees are declining or disappearing, however there is a lot that we don’t fully understand. Wild bees are essential for pollination of most of our native wildflowers, shrubs and trees, not to mention the crops that provide us with food.


A Bee Atlas will:

  • tell us which native bee species are in BC now and in the future;

  • tell us which flowers the bees use to feed on and raise their young;

  • help guide conservation and restoration efforts so we can protect the biodiversity of our native bees. 


Using the City of North Vancouver as an example of how the Bee Atlas works, the specimens collected and documented at Grand Boulevard will be mapped to that area, creating a baseline species diversity list. Information about the other bee species in the area, and the plants they are using can help CNV focus their management strategies on increasing the flowers that will support a great diversity of bee species. Over time, these management changes will result in an increase in bee species diversity in CNV parks.  The specimens collected in 2024 will provide a baseline for our understanding about the bee populations using this park, in its current condition. As CNV begins to build more pollinator meadows, continued surveys will reveal the impact and effect of those interventions. The BC Bee Atlas will serve as a catalogue or database where all this information is stored, maintained and freely available.


Learn more about our Bee Atlas here. If you’d like to support the BC Bee Atlas, make a donation here. If interested in partnering with the NBSBC on Bee Atlas activities, please send us an email with “BC Bee Atlas” as the subject. 


Bio

Christine Thuring is a plant ecologist with special emphasis on creating habitat in the built environment. She is a founding member of the Native Bee Society and has served as Secretary and Co-Chair/ President. As someone who learns by doing, Christine contributes to the Society’s outreach and programming and is a regular presenter and speaker.



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