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UBC Bee Walk introduces locals to native pollinators

This photo shows one of the bees seen at a UBC event on May 19, 2024. This photo shows one of the bees seen at a UBC event on May 19, 2024.
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UBC’s Botanical Garden was abuzz Sunday when where people were invited to get a close-up look at some of the province’s 500 species of native bees.

The Bee Walk is one of a series of events scheduled as part of the university’s annual Biodiversity Days. Attendees were shown how to identify different species after capturing them in a net and calming them down in a cooler.

Research assistant Terrell Roulston says getting familiar with these bees and learning about the crucial role they play is important given that the species are in rapid decline due to things like habitat loss, pesticide use and the introduction of invasive species.

Roulston acknowledges that bees have a bit of a bad rap, but that the ones at the garden are actually not likely to sting anyone at all.

“It’s very nice showing people that bees are actually very docile and that they don’t have to be so afraid of them,” he said. “The majority of time if you are stung by a bee, it was a wasp.”

Honey bees, Roulston points out, ate not native to B.C. However, less-recognizable pollinators play a crucial role in holding together the ecosystem and food systems in the province. Crops like blueberries and tomatoes rely on bees, for example.

“And of course those plants support other animals and other wildlife and so you can think of the bee as an essential step in balancing or maintaining the ecosystem,”Roulston explains.

The hope is that the event will inspire people to do what they can to help native bees survive and thrive. 

‘‘The number one thing you can do is provide the bees with food,” Rouslton said, adding that planting a diverse range of native wildflowers is one way to do that. The City of Vancouver has a list on its website of plants and flowers that support pollinators.

While it’s too late to attend this year’s Bee Walk, the garden does offer tours. Other events scheduled for Biodiversity Week include a Bat Walk on Wednesday, May 29.

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