Dianne St. Jean
Friends of the Earth launches second Bumble Bee Count

Appeal to the public to help Canada’s bee populations

In a recent release, Friends of the Earth Canada (FoE) put out an appeal for its second “Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count”, asking volunteer “census-takers” to help them track Canada’s bee population.

The organization is providing two different downloadable “Census Cards” from its website for the public to fill out and return, one for Eastern Canada and one for Western Canada, and has asked various media sources to help put out the appeal to the public.

The main goal is to help identify bees in different areas across Canada and as such, FoE is asking willing participants to look for and take photos of bumble bees, then upload the photos along with any observations. This will help scientists keep better track of the bee population and learn more about them.

The “Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count” campaign runs until September 15, 2017. Last year participants submitted 1218 photos and observations for the census, which included 12 submissions for the critically at-risk Yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola).

“We know from our recent poll that Canadians care deeply about saving the bees but they know very few of them by name,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada. The national survey, which was released in June, found that almost seven out of 10 Canadians were either ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ over the health of bees.

“We hope people will volunteer to go out with our Census Cards and take photos of the bumble bees wherever they are – cottages, national parks or their own garden. By sending Friends of the Earth their photos and observations, they’ll be helping us learn more about what needs to be done to protect bumble bees.”

John Bennett is Senior Policy Advisor for Friends of the Earth Canada. He says, “Bees are up against big stresses like habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and diseases. Canada has over 40 species of bumble bees but many of them are in trouble. Photos and observations about bumble bees from the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count could signal changes in how bumble bees are dealing with the same issues you and I face – from heat waves to fires and floods. This is critical information and we really need help from concerned citizens.”

For example, the Rusty-patched bumble bee, once abundant in southern Ontario, has been found to be almost extinct and therefore is now officially designated as endangered. Six more bees have declined to such an extent that scientists have advised the federal Minister of Environment to take steps to protect them.

“We think it’s a priority that Canadians learn more about these bees,” says Olivastri. “We want Canadians to be just as familiar with Yellow-banded bumble bees and more of the 40 plus bumble bee species as they are with Monarch butterflies.”

There are over 850 confirmed species of wild native bees in Canada with little proper monitoring. Honey bees have dedicated beekeepers to take care of them but wild, native bees need more support. 

More than two-thirds of the food crops we depend on benefit from pollination by native bees, honey bees and other pollinators. Bumble bees are capable of buzz pollination making them particularly effective pollinators for certain crops and flowers – including blueberries and tomatoes.

For more information visit the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count webpage at

http://foecanada.org/en/issues/bumble-bee-count/.  

This would make a great project for families and teach upcoming generations more about our air-borne “furry friends”.