Colony collapse disorder has been on the rise among domestic bees. But the problem for native beens is harder to measure, write two Selkirk College students. Black Press file photo

COLUMN: Why bees in B.C. need to stay busy

How a decline in bees could affect our food supply

By Emily Bailey and Brody Kunze

When you think of bees, you may think of the typical honeybee buzzing around from flower to flower gathering nectar and pollinating as they go. As we all know, pollination is essential for plant reproduction and subsequently fruit development. It’s also critical for the overall health of our gardens and forests in British Columbia.

Bees are responsible for pollinating 70 to 95 per cent of all flowers which in turn supports one-third of the world’s food supply. There are 800 bee species in Canada and 450 of these species in British Columbia, all of which compete for a common resource.

In recent years we are seeing an increase in colony collapse disorder (CCD). The loss of domesticated bees are easily measured as they are managed for agriculture use in above-ground hives, however the losses to native bees are much harder to measure, and they account for 80 per cent of pollination. Although not fully understood, CCD may be caused by numerous stressing factors including habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, and increased spread of pests and disease.

Large scale agriculture and monocrop production usually leads to less habitat and reduced opportunity for bees to gather nectar. This can create competition between native and non-native bees and can lead to poor nutrition and weakened immune systems. Beekeepers can provide their hives with food when necessary, however wild bee populations will inevitably suffer from food shortage.

Bees suffering from CCD can have a difficult time navigating, leaving the hive in search of pollen but getting lost and never returning. Fewer adults in the hive means less food for the young, fewer defenders of the nest, and more food raids by bees from healthy colonies. Pesticides inhibit bee development, and when they smell fungicide it makes it difficult for them to navigate to food sources.

Pesticides also accumulate in soil which has even longer lasting effects. These stressing factors and others have been shown to make bees more susceptible to pests such as Varroa mites, and disease.

There are a wide range of solutions to this impending problem, but perhaps the most unexpected one has just recently been discovered. A newly developed extract solution synthesized from common wood conk mushroom species has been shown to increase longevity and reduce viral burden by 75 per cent when fed to bees.

The mushroom extract will soon “bee” available with a specially developed bee feeder that anyone can purchase and deploy in their own yard!

Collaborations between farmers and beekeepers should consider reduced spraying during bloom, alternatives to pesticide use, and the integration of companion planting. Other considerations to help out include enhancing bee habitat and feeding opportunities on your properties. Planting major nectar producing tree species like pears, apples, plums, apricots, peaches.

Wild bees especially benefit from a variety of native wildflowers that bloom from fall to winter, providing a reliable food source through the whole season. Finally, think about building a bee box to provide a home for wild bees. The internet is full of design options.

The most important thing is to continue the conversation and work together to bolster the bee population and find solutions to this growing threat.

Emily Bailey and Brody Kunze are recreation, fish and wildlife students at Selkirk College in Castlegar.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Kootenay SPCA hopes you’ll have a heart for Cupid

Cat who tangled with a bobcat seeking a permanent home

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Painting Ourselves Visible group to create mural

A new partnership between Kootenay Gallery of Art and Castlegar Pride

Castlegar Skating Club prepares for regional championships

Watch local skaters on March 11 at 4:30 p.m.

Castlegar council develops policy for question period

Questions must pertain to current agenda items and issues or items of interest to the general public

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

Most Read