It’s a new year, new decade and time for some good news about honey bees! In the US there is a group called Project Apis M (PAm) who, since 2006, have brought US and Canadian researchers together with commercial beekeepers and growers in order to improve honey bee health and specifically their nutrition. To this end, in 7 years, their ‘Seeds for Bees’ program has distributed nearly 40,000 acres worth of seeds to California farmers. Since California’s almond orchards see the greatest number of honey bee concentrations in North America, the positive impact can be easily monitored. Using blooming brassicas and bell beans gives a nutritional boost to pollinators and also improves the soil. ‘Seeds for Bees’ benefits California pollinators but what is available in Canada?
There are a few groups focusing on pollinator health (Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, Insight Citizen Science) that operate in both countries but there doesn’t seem to be a group with funding available for a project similar to ‘Seeds for Bees’. Certainly the bees pollinating our vast fields of canola could benefit greatly from nutritional variety as much as California bees! However there is a great Planting Guide from the Canadian Honey Council which includes a very extensive list of plants loved by honey bees for every region of our vast country. If you’re a farmer you have the land resources to make a large impact. (The difficulty for most farmers is that we lack the financial and time resources.) But if you just love to garden you can make a difference too. As you leaf through your favourite seed catalogs keep the Planting Guide on hand and consider adding Joe-Pye Weed to your landscape.