What’s the buzz with the bees?

Pollinator expert leaves Sheridan in a buzz to get involved


Students got a birds and the bees talk of another nature, last Thursday with Victoria MacPhail, a PhD candidate in the faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and members of the Oakvillegreen Association. This was their second visit to campus following the tree tour through McCraney Woods earlier this month.

“I wanted people to become aware of the decline of pollinators because not much is known about this,” said MacPhail.

MacPhail explained three types of bees that are wanted in Ontario: the Yellow-banded bumble bee, the Rusty-patched bumble bee and the Gypsy Cuckoo bumble bee. The yellow-banded bee has been declining over the years with sightings becoming less often. The rusty-patched bee was once the fourth most common bee but has not been seen since 2008. The gypsy cuckoo bee is on the endangered species list and has also not been seen since 2008.

“Everyone can make a difference,” said MacPhail.

Those in attendance were shown websites such as bumblebeewatch.org and e-butterfly that can help keep track of these illusive pollinators. These citizen science projects can tell experts what types of bees live in a certain location and from there, they can track their movements. All you need to do is snap a photo and upload it to the site. It’s free and user friendly.

“The more people doing this, the better it is for everyone,” said MacPhail.

There have been about 15,000 records since 2014 from citizens across North America, with 4,500 being from Ontario.

“This has been a great update for bees and shows the progress that Ontario has done,” said MacPhail.

Ontario has started to limit the use of pesticides and regulate those that should no longer be allowed on our fields.

“Although this is a step in the right direction, more can still be done to help this issue,” said MacPhail.

She outlined ways that students can help get involved beyond the click of a photo. She gave tips on how to garden that will help bees pollinate and find a suitable habitat.

  1. Grow plants for each season because bees need food regularly.
  2. Have a variety of plants both in shape, colour and size because this makes it more appealing to the bees and can offer an appeal to other types of pollinators.
  3. Plant in clumps. This will help the bees pollinate easier because the plants are closer to each other.
  4. Plant native species. Bees like the familiarity.
  5. Don’t tidy your garden because this “mess” can be a home for bees.
  6. Avoid mulch. Bees don’t like it.

MacPhail also acknowledged the fact that not everyone has space for a garden and provided a number of alternatives.

  1. Find a friend who does have a garden and do your part by using theirs.
  2. Pressure communities for a pollinator friendly atmosphere like a community garden.
  3. Use a planter box.
  4. Build bee boxes.

“Just do your best to make a habitat for them,” said MacPhail.

Oakvillegreen was on hand to show students how to grow their own milkweed before allowing them to join in to make their own seed bombs (seeds wrapped in a ball of clay, covered in dirt)

“This is a great thing to get involved in, said Joyce Tran, a third-year Communications student. “I liked how it was informative and hands on. I would definitely come back to another event like this.”

Tran explained her troubles with her own milkweed and shared her battles with growing arugula before joining in to create her own milkweed seed bomb.

“Everyone go out and plant,” said Tran.