What Happens if the Bees Go Extinct?
Our last blog post on Inspiration from the Arts included a focus on endangered species in Canada and the unsettling statement that “If the bee goes extinct the planet will only survive four years.”
This stayed with us, further reinforced by an excellent presentation that Catherine attended on why we should care about pollinators and what citizens and gardeners may do to protect them, sponsored recently by the Leaside Garden Society and presented by two of its member Master Gardeners.
The arresting image they asked us to imagine is what if every third bite of food we ate was no longer available, underscoring the importance and impact of pollinators, including bees, on our lives.
Here is a piece by Brian Palmer for the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) on the topic, “A World Without Bees? Here’s What Happens if Bees Go Extinct, which echoes a similar assessment and notes it could be even more dire.
“How important are bees to farming today? If you ask 10 reporters that question, you’ll get 11 answers. Some stories say that bees pollinate more than two-thirds of our most important crops, while others say it’s closer to one-third. A spread of that size indicates a lack of authoritative scholarship on the subject. My review of the literature suggests the same.” (NRDC – https://on.nrdc.org/3qFivMW)
The Ontario government’s website quantifies the economic importance of honey bees to the province’s agriculture sector.
“In Ontario, 3,000 registered beekeepers operate 100,000 honey bee colonies. Ontario’s managed honey bees and bumble bees generate about $897 million of the roughly $6.7 billion in sales for agricultural crops grown in the province each year. This is equivalent to about 13% of the province’s total annual crop value.” (https://bit.ly/3qFZ5Yf)
Guess How Many Bees Call Alberta and Ontario Home?
The world of bees is a study unto itself we are discovering as we dig a little deeper. There is much to learn and lots on offer. Fortunately, there are many organizations and research experts championing the bee and offering excellent resources to make it easy for members of the public to learn more, including how everyday citizens may help protect this endangered species.
We learned that Ontario (400 species) and Alberta (321 species) are home to about half of the 748 bee species found in Canada, and that in Ontario, beyond the honey bee, there are five other types (families) to be found buzzing around our parks – the bumble bee, carpenter bee, leaf cutter bee, mining bee, and sweat bee. (Ontario Parks – https://bit.ly/3DuklYP)
The Alberta Bee Council offers a brief lesson in taxonomy where we learned that Alberta bees are grouped into six Families.
“All bees are insects (Class Insecta) and belong to Hymenoptera, an Order that includes bees, wasps, sawflies and ants. Within the Order, bees are grouped into Families. Alberta’s native bees belong to one of the following families:
- Andrenidae (mining bees)
- Apidae (includes bumble bees, digger bees, chimney bees, long-horned bees)
- Colletidae (plasterer bees)
- Halictidae (sweat bees)
- Megachilidae (includes carder bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees)
- Melittidae (melittid bees).”
Alberta Bee Council – https://bit.ly/3LfQ41H
The City of Toronto even has an official bee – a green metallic sweat bee known as Agapostemon virescens. (https://bit.ly/2zEUG0e)
You may learn more (lots!) from this 72-page Resource – Bees of Toronto: A Guide to Their Remarkable World – and perhaps get inspired to champion their protection and plant a pollinator garden or window box. https://bit.ly/2HdmA5Z
The Toronto Master Gardeners website (https://bit.ly/3dgQ98P) and, The City of Toronto’s website both offer tips to create a pollinator garden. A fun fact that Catherine learned from the Leaside Garden Society Master Gardeners is that native plants with single bloom flowers are best as food sources for pollinators; double bloomers lack pistils and nectar and are also too challenging for them to enter. Who knew?! Also, planting early spring flowers as food sources are really important for the bees as they emerge from winter slumber. Some plant ideas she learned for colour and early spring blossoms include: pussy willow, single blossom daffodils, golden rod, service berry, red bud, elderberry, Solomon seal, cone flower, tiara foam flower, Russian sage (annual).
Summer blossom tips for pollinator gardens include hydrangea, milkweed (a top tip for the monarch butterfly), echinachea, pagoda dogwood, rebeccia, columbine, beebalm bergamot, Blazing Star Liatris, Mexican sunflower (good for monarchs). Late summer blossoms include: Aster, Black-eyed Susan, and Fall ideas include: Joe Pye-Weed and Iron Weed. Catnip and native geraniums will blossom from spring to fall. Also consider garlic chives, Scarlett runner beans, Giant Hysop and Sea Holly.
Even better, for Toronto gardeners who are inspired to help protect bees (pollinators), now is the ideal time to apply for a Toronto grant for your pollinator garden from PollinateTO. The application window is September 12, 2022 to October 27, 2022. Learn more at: PollinateTO.
Celebrate National Tree Day 2022
What better way to celebrate National Tree Day – September 21st – by planting a tree and/or taking a walk or ride or drive to be with the trees and perhaps be rewarded with an early sighting of burgeoning fall colours.
“National Tree Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many benefits that trees provide: clean air, cooler cities, wildlife habitat and connection with nature.” (https://bit.ly/3eTy94S)
Not to forget their essential role in carbon capture in the fight against climate change and global warming!
See Landscape Ontario’s calendar of events at: Event Calendar – Landscape Ontario (horttrades.com)
Why Do Leaves Change Colour in Autumn?
Chris Clennett, Garden Manager at Wakehurst, reveals why and how leaves change colour in autumn, on the Kew Gardens website – https://bit.ly/3DulzD6
“Autumn colour is a fascinating phenomenon, where trees and shrubs that have been green all summer burst into flamboyant shades of yellow, orange and red. But why and how does it happen?
“Trees, like most plants, use a green pigment called chlorophyll to photosynthesise – that is to produce sugars from the energy of the sun, using water and nutrients from the soil. This is what gives trees the energy they need to live and grow.
“Leaves are the centre for this process, exposing the largest area they can to sunlight to speed things up. But leaves also contain many other substances, some used in photosynthesis and some created as by-products from it.
“It is thought the red or purple anthocyanins either protect the leaf from cold temperatures or deter pests, such as aphids. The presence of these coloured compounds might allow the tree longer to reabsorb other valuable nutrients as temperatures drop in autumn, so they are left in the leaf to help that process.
“As the tree becomes dormant, a compound called abscisic acid triggers a seal to develop at the base of the leaves, before they fall off. This reduces water reaching the leaf and traps the chemicals remaining in the leaves. They gradually break down, changing the colour of each leaf before it drops to the ground. As the process is gradual, individual leaves will be at different stages, so a tree will have leaves of many changing hues as autumn progresses.
Trigger for autumn colour
“The trigger for autumn colour to develop is a combination of day length and night temperature. As days shorten, the amount of sugar generated by photosynthesis drops off, and hormones in the plant trigger the leaf sealing and shedding process. This is accelerated by cold nights, but the lower temperatures also act on the compounds remaining in the leaf, breaking them down more quickly.” (Kew Gardens – https://bit.ly/3DulzD6)
Fall Colours and Foliage Calendars
Trip Savvy lists these “best places to see fall colours in Canada” –
Rocky Mountains, AB
Algonquin Park, ON
Agawa Canyon, ON
Via Rail: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia
Niagara Parkway, ON
Bruce Peninsula, ON
Laurentian Mountains, QUE
Prince Edward Island
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, N.S.
Fundy Coastal Drive, N.B.
(Trip Savvy – https://bit.ly/3S897x7)
Destination Canada’s website offers more travel ideas to see fall colours in Canada, including biking on the seawall in Vancouver, B.C. (https://bit.ly/3Bl8wl1)
This Ontario Parks website offers a fall colour calendar to help plan your park visit for peak viewing dates: https://bit.ly/3qO8Mnr
Similarly, Curiocity’s website offers calendar information to help trip planning to see fall colours at their peak in Alberta’s National parks – https://bit.ly/3BMHpAN
Our last blog featured Inspiration from Art and Artists, quoting Claudia Rinke on “Why Artists will Change the Planet,” offering her view that, “I do think that art and creativity truly have the power to change societies and the world. It will take collective effort of artists, institutions, and individuals to envision a better future and to take steps toward that vision.”
Mother Nature’s natural beauty shimmers at this time of year. How fortunate are we in Canada to experience and enjoy the gifts and bounty of the four seasons, freely on offer to us to renew, inspire and lift our spirits and sightlines for a brighter future. We just need to remember to take a moment to stop, look, be still with and truly see and wonder at the magnificence and marvels of the world around us, and receive these gifts with gratitude and an open heart. What better time than now, amidst the vibrant changing fall leaves and colours, to celebrate trees and our gift of life? Perhaps a walk, bike ride or hike, whether on September 21st to celebrate National Tree Day, or, on October 9-10 to reflect during Thanksgiving weekend?
Inspiration from Words of Wisdom
Then perhaps the words of Onondaga Nation Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah may resonate and inspire us further, to treasure and take good care. Worth repeating and contemplating we feel –
“Being born as humans to this earth is a very sacred trust. We have a sacred responsibility because of the special gift we have, which is beyond the fine gifts of the plant life, the fish, the woodlands, the birds and all the other living things on earth: We are able to take care of them.” Onondaga Nation Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah.