An Oyster River-based mason bee company has extended its bee rental program to the South Island, and Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes was the first to sign up to host a colony.
Gordon Cyr and his family run Bee Canadian, a small business that has sold and rented mason bees in the Campbell River and Courtenay area for six years. They have been raising mason bees for 20 years and provide about 600 homeowners with mason bees annually.
Orchard mason bees, native to Vancouver Island, nest in holes and work hard to cross-pollinate the surrounding area during the cool, wet spring months, Cyr explains on the company website.
The company rents bees and the accompanying bee-house kits of various sizes to homeowners and companies in suitable locations on Vancouver Island.
Recently, Cyr launched the rental program online and expanded the service to the South Island. While attending the Seedy Saturday event organized by Haliburton Farm at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific on Jan. 11, he invited residents to host a bee colony in the spring. The first homeowner to sign up was Haynes.
The Saanich mayor is excited to host mason bees at his new home near Prospect Lake. His living green roof – installed in the fall – is designed to support pollinators, birds and native plants.
“I feel like I’m an adoptive father,” Haynes said of the bees he’ll receive in the spring.
According to Cyr, the friendly bees are easy to raise; they are said to be kid-friendly, fun to watch and provide great learning opportunities.
To rent the bees, property owners must have a garden with lots of spring-blooming flowers, mud for the bees to use to build walls in their nesting block and a location along a south or southeast-facing wall where the bees will receive morning sun to warm them up for the day.
Once the location has been deemed suitable to host the bees, the rental process can begin. Rental kits range in size and price. The smaller “huts” cost $25 while the “hotels” cost $85. Once a kit has been ordered, it can be picked up and installed in March. Kits are then returned to the company in June once the bees’ work is complete. The new generation is laid in the nesting holes and the adults die after about eight weeks. Staff care for the eggs over the summer so the new generation is ready for winter hibernation then spring pollination the following year.
The next bee and kit pickup day is Feb. 15 at the Victoria Conference Centre during the Seedy Saturday market.