With approximately 500 different species of bees in the province and limited research on them it’s hard to understand the state of pollinators on Vancouver Island.
But for one Island bee keeper the time for action is now.
“I’ve kept bees for 40 years, and I’m finding it very difficult to keep honeybees here in B.C. — especially as the climate changes,” he says. “I’ve only had one good crop since I’ve been here.”
The 70-year-old has been a life long observer of pollinators, giving workshops throughout western Canada. One of Leishcner main concerns is the amount of food or flowers available to bees on the Island. He says drastic action is needed, and it’s needs to be fast.
“Climate change has certainly taken a toll. I see it in my bees,” he says. “I can read my honeybees pretty good and there’s been kind of a malaise in my hives over the last three or four years that I’ve never seen in my life. I find it very scary, something needs to be done.”
Andrew Simon is a UVic environmental studies graduate student studying the western bumblebee on Galiano Island. This particular type of bee was last spotted in 1990 and hasn’t been reported since, along with two other dependent species of bees. It’s one of eight types of bumble bees on the endangered species list.
While Simon doesn’t feel an alarmist view is necessary, he emphasizes the lack of research being done to clarify the problem.
“I think the most important message to get across when it comes to the threat of bees in B.C. is that we don’t know enough. We don’t have a baseline to really assess whether species are declining for many of them because we haven’t been paying attention to them,” says Simon.
Jenny Lotz of Pollinator Partnership Canada agrees. She says without being able to identify the causation the correlation is pretty obvious.
“There is this state of emergency, but with this lack of hard scientific data, we’re not able to 100 per cent say this is what’s happening,” she says.
According to Lotz the biggest contributing factors to the decline of bees is land degradation causing habitat fragmentation due to urbanization coupled with agriculture and industrial expansion. Another major factor to the decline of bees is the changing timing of the seasons.
“There’s usually a high synchronicity between [flowers blooming and bees emerging], but now flowers sometimes bloom either earlier or later — that long evolved synchronicity is losing it’s timing,” she says.
For Lesichner the evidence is in his hives. He wants to see government action similar to the U.K., who declared bees a matter of national security after implementing a 10-year National Pollinator Strategy in 2014.
“We need acres and acres of the right kinds of flowers, we need sufficient nectar and pollen production in the whole landscape to keep all our native bees,” he says. “We’re talking thousands of acres, not casually but as if our lives depended on it, because in fact they do.”
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