Planting beefriendly gardens can help bee populations in southern Alberta

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Recent data from Statistics Canada shows the number of beekeepers and honeybee hives are on the rise in Canada, but they still face challenges.

Some of these include inadequate nutrition, diseases, parasites and harsh weather.

But it’s not just honeybees. Southern Alberta is home to hundreds of different species, including many native ones.

“Most people are probably familiar with bumblebees which are big and obvious and hairy, so most people know those,” said Shelley Hoover, a researcher with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “There’s a lot of other species that don’t necessarily look like a bee.”

Hoover says bees play an important role when it comes to pollination, which is needed for plants to reproduce.

“Bees are the primary pollinator of everything that flowers in the ecosystem,” Hoover said.

But they also face challenges including habitat loss, disease and harmful pesticides and what you do at home could also be harming these fierce pollinators.

“The best thing you can you do is plant flowers that bees like and don’t spray insecticides – or even herbicides or fungicides – when anything is in bloom,” Hoover said.

Joanna Fraser is a garden design consultant and well-versed when it comes to bee-friendly plants.

“Anything that has something that will attract them – it could be a good abundance of pollen or a source of nectar or a bit of both,” Fraser said when describing a bee-friendly plant. “They do like a great range. They won’t stick with one colour or one plant, they’ll go over a whole range of plants.”

One plant she highly recommends is the Pasque flower.

“It’s sometimes known as prairie crocus and bees are very much attracted [to it]. They come in here and they like to forage around,” Fraser said.

She says having a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs is important, as well as sunlight and where you choose to plant.

“They need a long season and we have a great selection that we can grow in Alberta that will keep them busy and keep them occupied and energized right up to the time we get the first frost.”

If you’re worried about getting stung, Fraser said don’t be.

“Most of the bees are not interested in us. They’re interested in getting about their business and pollinating flowers,” she said.

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