Listening to the bees of the Garden City Lands

Brian Campbell, Richmond’s bee expert, partners with local people in his Blessed Bee Farm, which is community shared agriculture that occurs mostly in their yards. (The acronym for it, CSA, can also mean community supported agriculture, but shared fits best in this case.) While the focus of Blessed Bee Farm is on honey bees and honey, Brian also cares about native bees.

For millennia before honey bees from Europe arrived in this area, native bees pollinated the native plants. Many such plants on the Garden City Lands still rely on native bees, not honey bees or other pollinators. That’s reason to think about the future that will be best for the bees and the plants they pollinate.

Michael Wolfe, who listens to nature, has learned a lot from the Garden City Lands. One key bit of that knowledge is that the southwest corner, bordered by Westminster Highway and Garden City Road, is the best habitat for native bees, as well as for nesting birds. No doubt the hardhack and blackberry brambles would have a role, and no doubt the water level is right too. It’s an ecological area to conserve with care.

That habitat could anchor the fostering of the native bee population, which would in turn help with the ecological restoration of the large sphagnum bog area that is barely surviving to the east.

Native Bees poster from Pollinator Partnership

If you double-click on the image of native bees, Pollinator Partnership will identify each of them.

Encouraging biodiversity in the form of native bees also has a broader value for food security. Honey bee populations in North America are being decimated by colony collapse disorder (CCD), and native bees can sometimes take their place in the crucial role of pollinating. Naturally, the problems and solutions happen at the local level.

This brings me back to Brian Campbell. I recently had a chance to chat with him, and he described how most native bees are opportunists in finding homes. Someone like him can help native bees to locate homes around the lands so that the bees spread in lasting ways. Since some of the smaller kinds of bees don’t venture far from their nests (even as little as a hundred feet), the helping hand can mean a lot.

Brian is a longtime supporter of conserving the Garden City Lands, and he would be happy to help lead a tour with a focus on bees. The timing will be tricky because different kinds of native bees are in evidence for rather short periods at different times in the warm-weather months. Many of them have already had their days in the sun.

Brian already has eighty-hour weeks at this time of year, with time-consuming beekeeping on top of his regular job, so finding time to lead a tour is easier said than done. One way or another, though, we will find a way to have a tour where Brian and Michael help us to listen in a unique way, fine-tuning our senses to learn what the bees of the Garden City Lands would love us to know.

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