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Get the buzz on bees this week

A flowering issue has the West Kootenay a buzz.

On Thursday a free workshop on why native pollinators are important to our lifestyle in the West Kootenay, and how we can encourage them through better ecology, will be offered at Selkirk College in the Muriel Griffiths Room.

Hosted by Rossland REAL Food, native bee specialist and entomologist Lynn Westcott will be speaking in Trail (Thursday, March 8, 7 p.m.) and in Rossland (April 12) about a species that affects us at a core level.

Bees perform one of the most vital aspects in the creation of a healthy local food system, said Westcott. They are critical to pollination, and pollination is necessary for flowering plants to produce, whether that be fruit or propagation.

“Bees have co-evolved with a lot of the flowering plants,” she said. “Pollen provides the primary food source for the next generation of developing bees. And as they fly from flower to flower they transfer pollen from plant to plant which allows the plants to reproduce.”

A lot of the fruit plants we derive our food from in the West Kootenay are flowering plants, said Westcott, and they require animal pollinators in order for them to reproduce, to produce seed and to produce food.

“And the majority of animal pollinators are insect, and those are mainly bees,” she said.

There are no hard numbers about a percentage of decline in bee populations in the West Kootenay, but all over the world their descent is an issue. Westcott said the factors that play into these global reductions — from habitat loss or habitat changes, to pesticide use, to parasites and diseases — are the same here.

In the West Kootenay, many of the 450 species of native bees actually nest in the ground.

“So anything that disturbs the soil disturbs the native habitat for these bees,” she said.

Honeybees, however, are not a native species. They were introduced from overseas when Europeans first came over to North America.

Thursday’s presentation, supported by Communities in Bloom, will include an overview of plant pollination and why it is important, both in a local food production perspective but also for a healthy ecology perspective.

People will be introduced to the various groups of native bees in the Boundary West Kootenay region, as well as learning simple ways to provide habitat for native bees in a yard or in the garden through pollinator friendly flowering plants.

The last part of the evening will be spent showing people how simple it is to construct some habitat for bees.

Only Trail registrants for the Thursday workshop go to Selkirk College. In Rossland, contact Hanne Smith (250-362-7767) to register for the workshop in April.

Two field sessions are planned in early June in Trail and Rossland.

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