Plant a seed, help a bee: Experts urge Canadians to plant wildflowers to save bees from decline
TORONTO -- Experts are once again urging Canadians to help save wild bees after yet another study predicted a dire future for the species crucial to our food system, and they say anyone with a backyard can help the cause.
Climate change and the loss of natural habitats due to urban development play a large part in the sharp decline of pollination sources for the buzzing insects, according to a new report that analyzed more than 100 years of data related to bees. Other factors include chemical insecticides, parasites and geographical displacement.
Sandra Rehan, a biology professor and expert in wild bee genomics at York University, told CTV News Channel that Canadians can do their part to save the species by planting wildflowers.
“In a study last year studying over 120 wild bee species, 14 are in decline,” Rehan told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “Many wild bees in general are in decline and it’s not subtle, its rather 70 to 90 per cent of the population.”
Rehan and a team of researchers examined the relationship between wild bees and plants from 125 years ago to the present day and found that, within the last 30 years, there has been a loss of 94 per cent of plant-pollinator networks, which are networks made up of wild bees and the plants they regularly depend on.
While invasive species and the expansion of agriculture can harm these networks, climate change is the biggest factor, researchers say. Fluctuations in temperature can offset the blooming patterns for wildflowers and limit the timeframe for when bees can pollinate, Rehan said.
“In the north east, the climate has changed about two and a half degrees on average and with this it’s creating an offset,” she said.
“The flowers are blooming a few days differently than they did normally and it’s affecting the bees because the bees are so in sync with their flower sources, and we think this is creating sort of this mismatch ...the flowers are out when the bees are not, and vice versa.”
Wild bees pollinate more than 87 per cent of flowering plants, according to the study, making them an essential part of our ecosystem. About one-third of the foods eaten by humans come from plants pollinated by bees.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of curbing climate change is a long-term approach to fixing the problem, Rehan says. However, providing bees with a variety of pollination sources can help restore the plant-pollinator networks.
“What we can do going forward for the bees is having a good variety available. They can only forage on what is available when they happen to be around, so people can plant wildflowers and we very much encourage native flowers,” she said.
Having a wide variety of wildflowers available allows bees to find nutrients all season long as some plants bloom in different stages, according to the David Suzuki Environmental Foundation.
Primrose, lavender, sunflowers and cosmos are among several plants known to attract bees, but Rehan says flowers native to your region are highly encouraged.