To celebrate bumble bee month at A Rocha Ontario, let’s learn more about these amazing pollinators!

Why are bumble bees such effective pollinators? And other fun facts!  

  • The coats of bumble bees are especially furry, which allows their coats to easily pick up pollen and transfer it to other plants.
  • Bumble bees are among the first of the bee species to emerge in the year and are therefore very important pollinators of early and winter crops.
  • Bumble bees are able to figure out the shortest possible routes between flowers, flying in the most time-efficient way. Bees are the only known animals to have this uncanny ability.
  • About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.
  • Bees pollinate around one-sixth of all the flowering species worldwide and approximately 400 different agricultural types of plant.
  • Bumble bees are some of the most social creatures in the animal kingdom. Colonies of bees can contain between 50 and 500 individuals.

What’s happening to the bees?

  • Several native bee species have recently rapidly declined. One example of the most extreme declines is the rusty-patched bumblebee. The rusty-patched bumble bee was formerly among the most common species across its range, but is now listed as Endangered and has not been observed in Canada since 2009. 
  • The yellow-banded bumblebee is listed under Special Concern, the western bumble bee is considered Threatened, and the parasitic gypsy cuckoo bumble bee is listed as Endangered. In 2018, the American bumble bee was designated under Special Concern, adding to Canada’s growing list of threatened bumble bees.  
  • There are a variety of reasons why bee populations are declining. Some causes include climate change, habitat destruction/fragmentation, increasing urbanization and development, pesticide use, lawn and garden practices, the presence of invasive species, and introduced diseases. 

What can we do?

By creating a garden of flowering plants, you can provide food and habitat for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

1. Select single-top flowers like daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double-headed flowers produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

2. Plan for blooms season-round: This will provide bees and other pollinators with a constant source of food.  For example:

    • Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac provide enticing spring blooms in a bee garden.
    • Bees feast on bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, foxglove, and hosta in the summer.
    • For fall, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel, and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

3. Build homes for native bees: leave a sunny patch of your garden uncultivated for native bees that burrow. Some native bees also need access to soil surface for nesting. For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood.

4. Avoid using herbicides or pesticides in your bee garden. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check.

5. Create a “bee bath”: bees need a place to get fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking.

6. Live in a home without a garden? Design a window container or balcony garden as an inviting oasis for bees. Every little bit can help to nurture bees and other pollinators.

Written by: Jessica Banninga, summer intern