Bees are vitally important to our lives. (Citizen file)

Bees are vitally important to our lives. (Citizen file)

Robert Barron column: Bees are integral to local ecosystems

These days, it’s odd to see even one as I sit in my backyard reading a book

Has anyone noticed that there seems to be a lot fewer bees around these days?

When I was a kid, there seemed to be no end of them at this time of year and I would watch the multi-coloured flying insects with fascination as they slowly made their way from one flowering plant to another.

These days, it’s odd to see even one as I sit in my backyard reading a book.

It seems the bees are in serious decline due to the combination of habitat loss, disease, climate change and exposure to pesticides.

And, apparently, that spells very bad news for the health of our ecosystems, as well as to my leisure activities.

According to the literature I’ve recently read on the issue, many pollinator species, including bees, butterflies and birds, ensure the reproductive success of plants and the survival of the wildlife that depend on those plants for food and shelter.

They are also responsible for an estimated one out of three bites of food that people eat (an unusual way to measure I might add), which is worth billions of dollars to the North American economy.

Bees are integral to the delicate cycle of life, and the implications may be dire if we are foolish enough to let them go the way of the dodos.

That’s why I applaud the recent decision of the City of Duncan to become a municipal member of Bee City Canada, an organization dedicated to connecting communities across the nation in the protection, promotion and celebration of bees and other pollinators, after a recent presentation by three local students encouraging them to do so.

In order to be certified as a Bee City affiliate, a city must commit to establishing a standing committee to facilitate community-wide pollinator conservation; to creating and disseminating a list of native plant species and an integrated pest management plan; and to raising community awareness through events and habitat-enhancement activities.

“It is imperative that we change our idea of a desirable landscape away from one of large green lawns treated with chemicals and bordered by predominantly exotic plants to one of a diversity of native plants free of pesticides,” Bee City Canada says in its literature.

At the City of Duncan’s council meeting earlier this week, mayor Michelle Staples said the city is committed to working with its partner organizations to create pollinator-friendly areas within its parks and open spaces.

“We can’t wait to get busy with residents to encourage people to plant pollinators in their gardens, on their boulevards and help lead the way with plantings in our city streets and parks,” she said.

“We will work with community partners to educate community members and businesses about how they can help bees and other native pollinators. Education will include alternatives to chemical pesticides and herbicides, recognizing pollinators and how to source native plants, trees and shrubs. Together, we will grow an even healthier environment where pollinators and people can flourish.”

In a note of congratulations to the City of Duncan for becoming a member of Bee City Canada, Vicki Wojcik, a director with the organization, said Duncan is the first Bee City on Vancouver Island, and one of the most “bee-savvy” Bee Cities that it has as a member.

“Duncan, has history with bees, and the Cowichan Beekeepers are an engaged and impressive group that is 200 strong and working towards honey-bee health and sustainable agriculture,” she said.

“How wonderful that you’ve tied in beekeeping and food with your annual picnic and with Cowichan Green Communities. That’s really a way to show and celebrate the role of bees in our lives.”

Kudos to Duncan; now let’s see if the other local municipalities will get on board.

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