With bee populations in decline throughout British Columbia and beyond, SPES is helping to protect one of Stanley Park’s most important pollinators: the solitary mason bee.
The blue orchard mason bee can be found throughout North America in both urban and rural areas. Slightly smaller than your average honey bee with a blue and black coloration, these bees are often mistaken for the common housefly. Unlike their more famous cousins, mason bees no not live in hives and produce no honey, nesting instead in hollow stems, woodpecker drillings, and other insect burrows. Each female bee is her own queen laying 7 to 11 eggs in a tubular nest, resting them carefully on a bed of pollen and nectar upon which they will feed for the coming months. She will then cover each one of the larvae with a protective wall of mud protecting them from the elements and earning her the title of “mason” bee. Once the weather is warm enough the young bees will emerge from their cocoons and begin the busy work of pollinating.
SPES is helping to create more mason bee habitat because these bees are such phenomenal pollinators; mason bee pollinate fruit trees, flowers and vegetables and can visit over 17 blooms per minute within 100 m of their nest site. With over 1/3 of our food crops reliant upon insect pollination, the need to protect bee habitat is more important now than ever before.
Five years ago, the Environmental Youth Alliance set the goal of creating over 50 mason bee condos throughout City of Vancouver. SPES was a lucky recipient of one of these condos and has since added more in Stanley Park. But these bee homes need support every year: SPES volunteers have already begun the important task of winterizing our bee condos. We collect mason bee larvae at the start of the winter, clean the cocoons of parasitic wasp eggs and harmful mites, store them in our office fridge to ensure they don’t hatch before spring flowers are in bloom, and reintroduce them back into the Park in the spring along with their clean condos.
SPES will be setting up mason bee condos throughout the Park with a “Super Lodge” located in the Rose Garden. If you’re walking in the Park this spring you can check out our other nesting sites outside of the Stanley Park Pavilion and the Native Plant Garden. Should you spot one, please let them “bee”; they have an important job to do for all of us!
–By Michael Murray, SPES Communications Volunteer