Promoting Provincial Pollinators
Updated: Jan 15
Sticky Innovation reflection // A Greenacres Field Experience // Cecelia Favorito
A sunshine filled morning in early September allowed us to experience Greenacres farm and all of its' efforts to support native bee species. Greeted by a foundation member and educator, we dove into an experiential lesson about the habits of two species specifically studied by the farm: Mason Bees and Leaf Cutter Bees.
We were informed- in a sense- about the life cycle of these bees and how they differ. Both nesters, the bees lay eggs within cylindrical tubes made of natural grass reeds. The differentiation of the two comes in the natural material that the eggs are set to inhabit. Where a mason bee spins a delicate substance and mud "walls" to pack pollen and the fertilized egg, a leafcutter creates a cigar-looking cocoon with collected leaf material.
These processes, including the use of the cylindrical reed habitat, are interesting in consideration of BEEhavior and survival methods.
From top left to bottom right: (1) A house-shaped "home" that grass reeds are inserted. (2) A grass reed that has been split, exposing the pollen-filled cocoons. (3) Hatched cocoon shells of mason bees. (4) A grass reed with less cocoon development. (5) A leaf-cutter habitat with cocoons made of leafy material. (6) A leaf-cutter cocoon.
All taken on 9/10 by me on iphone.
The educator at Greenacres made it very clear how easy and accessible it is for an average person to promote the native bee population with simple tools. For example, we learned that the mason bee, which is a spring pollinator, hatches in the early spring when temperatures rise to around 55 degrees. Nearing the end of the summer season and into fall, the egg fertilization/nesting process has set and cocoons have been built within the reeds to "hibernate" over the winter.
Greenacres then opens these reeds, cleans the cocoons of parasites or pathogens, and leaves them in containers that i diagrammed in the drawing to the left, below. I thought this method was particularly amazing in its simplicity: it really does not need to be a complex process to have a very effective outcome. The container itself, the low maintenance required, and the low cost make me question why this is not more popularly advocated for.
The second diagram depicts the just-as-simple device that allows the mason bees to hatch in the spring while providing protection from predators such as birds and small animals.
Diagrams drawn by me on 9/11.
Besides mason bees and leaf-cutter bees, we were able to experience other pollinators on the farm, including this very well identifiable bumble bee.
Video taken on my iphone, 9/10.
The Greenacres green houses were also very impressive in methods of balancing pollination habits, product yield, and ethical anti-predator initiatives.
One element within the greenhouse that I found particularly interesting were the pest-control methods, specifically in preventing the "glasshouse whitefly" and other predatory insects. Shown in the picture to the bottom-right, the system adopted is not harmful to the native pollinators and targets only the pests in a natural and safe way. The lower windows of the greenhouse are left open in order for pollination to occur, yet the native species are not threatened.
From top left to bottom: (1) An open greenhouse, (2) A glass greenhouse, (3) Young sprouts and potted decorative plants in the background, (4) Pest control system.
All photos taken by me on iphone, 9/10
The three images below show native pollinators on a floral shrub. One thing that was heavily discussed, and is another example of an easy way to get involved in promoting pollinators, is planting "cover crops" and shrub lines to provide native bees with nutrition. I thought it was interesting that Greenacres used buckwheat as a cover crop, which is not only beneficial for bee nutrition, but the overall value of the soil.
Other points of interest to me that considered ease & accessibility to the average person:
~ Mowing lawns at a sunnier/ warmer time of day, as bees and other pollinators are less active then.
~ leaving small, weeded areas (maybe hidden) that allow natural growth & habitat.
~ Using pine needles rather than mulch to allow nesting insects more space and less dense covering in soil.
All photos taken by me on iphone, 9/10.
Below: a short, trimmed video of a bee pollinating, and in flight.
Video taken by me on iphone, 9/10.
A BumbleBee in flight!
Photos taken by me on iphone, 9/10.
All in all, the field experience was very beneficial to my understanding of native bees and the opportunities that are held in promoting these species. As we have discussed the "wicked problem" of colony collapse disorder, we have primarily studied social bee groups, ex.the honeybee. For pollination efficiency, which is a major branch of the numerous problems surrounding CCD, native bees can do the job... maybe even better? I learned through this experience that 1 mason bee can pollinate as effectively as 100 honeybees. If honeybees are favored or prioritized over native species, there is risk of the honeybee out-competing the insects that are pollinating extremely effectively.
Special thanks to: