Preparing for Pollinators

Whether you're ready to believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. It's time to start preparing. In this Q&A with Ron Glave from Beekind Honey Bees, we talk about how Revelstokians can prepare for and support pollinators in their gardening practices this spring.

“Ron Glave is a beekeeper and says that for a long time, the messaging around honey bees has been ‘save our bees.’ This messaging has evolved more towards ‘feed our bees.’” Photo: Nora Hughes

This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s March 2023 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:

Ron Glave is the Chief Beekeeper at BeeKind Honey Bees in Revelstoke. He says that each spring, we have an opportunity to create diversified non-invasive habitats in support of pollinators and our local ecosystem. Any gardener can take advantage of this opportunity by sourcing appropriate seed, start, shrub, and tree options, instead of just going with the most attractive product packaging. 

In this question-and-answer piece, we explore the many options and opportunities to make a lasting improvement on pollinator habitat in our community. 

Revelstoke Mountaineer: Why is pollinator habitat important?

Ron Glave: Pollinator habitat is important for a number of reasons, both ecological and economical.

Ecologically, pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, and bats play a crucial role in pollinating flowers of plants. This process helps ensure the reproduction of many plants and is essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems. Without pollinators, many plants would decline or even disappear, which would have a significant impact on the biodiversity of our planet. 

Pollinators are essential for many crops that we rely on for food, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Without them, our food supply would be severely impacted. 

The pollination services provided by bees and other insects are estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually in Canada. By providing habitat for pollinators, we can support the growth of industries such as agriculture and horticulture. 

Pollinator habitat can help to build climate resilience to the impacts of climate change by maintaining ecosystem functions, such as pollination, that are essential to many plant species. 

Pollinators are an important part of Canada’s natural heritage and play a significant role in many Indigenous cultures. By providing habitat for pollinators, we can help to preserve these important cultural and educational values.

“Preparing for pollinators includes planting various plants that bloom throughout the growing season, educating yourself on native species and asking for pollinator-friendly products and services.” Photo: Ron Glave

RM: What plants are ideal for pollinators, and what is the planting process?

R: A few examples of plants ideal for pollinators includes wildflowers such as lupines, fireweed, clover, dandelion, penstemons, and Indian paintbrush provide a great source of nectar and pollen for pollinators. 

Shrubs such as snowberry, red-osier dogwood, and ocean spray are attractive to pollinators and also provide nesting sites for native bees. 

Trees such as cottonwood, aspen, maple, and willow are excellent sources of pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinators. 

Berries such as blackberries, raspberries, and huckleberries are attractive to pollinators and also provide food for birds and other wildlife. 

And herbs such as mint, thyme, and oregano are great sources of nectar for pollinators and also provide food and shelter for beneficial insects. 

It’s also important to note that native plants are generally more beneficial to pollinators than non-native plants, so it’s a good idea to focus on planting native species whenever possible. 

Additionally, it’s important to provide a variety of plants that bloom at different times throughout the growing season, as this can help ensure that pollinators have a reliable source of food throughout the year. 

The planting process for each will differ from species to species; however, it’s a good general rule of thumb that the first-year plants sleep, the second-year plants creep, and the third-year plants LEAP! 

One of many great resources is the Selecting Plants for Pollinators, a planting guide for the Columbia Mountains and Highland Regions through the Pollinator Partnership.

RM: As a beekeeper, what effects can the plants in a region have on honeybees? 

R: Plants in a region have a significant effect on honeybees and the honey they produce. Honeybees rely on nectar and pollen from flowers to survive and produce honey. Different plants produce nectar and pollen with different chemical compositions and flavours. This, in turn, affects the flavour profile of the honey that we enjoy based on the predominant floral source in the foraging area of our beehives. 

The nectar from some plants, such as clover, produces light mild honey, while nectar from other plants can produce more golden or dark and robust honey. The type of plants in a region can influence the colour, aroma, and flavour of honey and can even change from one micro-region to another.

Additionally, some plants may be more attractive to bees than others, leading to differences in honey production. Bees are more likely to visit flowers that produce high quantities of nectar and pollen, and in turn, these plants can lead to increased honey production. 

As a beekeeper, it’s important to be aware of the plants in the surrounding area and available forage. This can help in managing our honeybees and producing unique, quality honey.

“At BeeKind Honey Bees, the hives collect pollen through pollen trapping using a wooden device below the hive. The bees enter through the entrance, pass through a series of screens, knocking off some of the pollen into a collection tray. Here you can see the array of pollen particles. The colours represent different pollen foraged from different plants.” Photo: Ron Glave

RM: Can you tell me about Bee City Revelstoke? What kind of resources does it provide for our community? 

R: Bee City Revelstoke is a program that aims to promote pollinator conservation and education in Revelstoke. The program is part of a larger international initiative called Bee City Canada, which seeks to protect pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects that are essential for the reproduction of many plants and the health of our ecosystems. 

Bee City Revelstoke works with local residents, businesses, schools, and other organizations to create pollinator-friendly habitats and promote awareness about the importance of pollinators. Some of the resources it provides for the community include: 

Educational resources: Bee City Revelstoke provides information and educational resources about pollinators, their habitats, and the threats they face. This includes workshops, webinars, and educational materials for schools and community groups. 

Pollinator garden resources: Bee City Revelstoke works with individuals, businesses, and organizations to create pollinator-friendly gardens and habitats. They offer resources and guidance on how to create and maintain these gardens. 

Bee City Revelstoke hosts community events to raise awareness about pollinators and their importance. These events feature activities, workshops, and educational displays about pollinators. Another initiative includes the pollinator-friendly lawn signs program showing support for our local pollinators. 

Bee City Revelstoke provides networking opportunities for individuals and organizations interested in pollinator conservation. This includes connecting local beekeepers, gardeners, and other pollinator advocates. 

Bee City Revelstoke is actively interested in new members joining the group to discuss, plan, and action pollinator habitat initiatives. Anyone interested can connect with the Bee City Revelstoke Chair,

“Bee City Revelstoke ” aims to promote pollinator conservation and education. They have many resources that can help gardeners prepare for pollinators.” Photo: Nora Hughes

RM: What opportunities are there in Revelstoke to promote and foster pollinator habitat? 

R: Some opportunities to promote and foster pollinator habitat in Revelstoke include: 

Planting pollinator-friendly plants. By planting native flowering plants, you can provide food for pollinators and create a habitat for them. Some good native species to plant in Revelstoke include bluebells, fireweed, yarrow, and goldenrod. 

Creating pollinator gardens specifically designed to attract pollinators. These gardens should have a variety of flowering plants with different bloom times to provide food throughout the growing season. You can also provide nesting habitats for bees by including wood or bamboo nesting tubes. 

Request pollinator-friendly seeds, plants, shrubs, and trees from local garden supply centers. Request that pollinator-friendly habitats be included in landscape design projects from local landscaping contractors. Work towards re-wilding areas of development, matching or exceeding development disturbance to the local ecosystem. 

Encourage natural areas in and around Revelstoke. Natural areas with diverse habitats and plant species provide important food and nesting sites for pollinators. 

Educating the community about the importance of pollinators and the role they play in our ecosystem. By raising awareness and understanding, more people may be willing to take action to support pollinators. 

Reducing pesticide use. Pesticides can be harmful to pollinators. Reduce pesticide use by using non-toxic pest management techniques or selecting pest-resistant plant varieties. 

Partner with local organizations such as Bee City Revelstoke, the Revelstoke Local Food Initiative, or the Revelstoke Bear Aware Society to promote pollinator habitat and educate the community. 

Connect with additional Pollinator resources; KinSeed Ecologies, Elk Root Conservations Society, Xerces Society, and Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society. 

By taking these actions, we can become a more pollinator-friendly community, supporting the health and biodiversity of the local ecosystem. 

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Nora Hughes is a recent graduate of the Thompson Rivers University Interdisciplinary Program, where she combined her passions for Adventure Tourism, Communications and Journalism. With a strong interest in community news, Nora is passionate about giving a voice and face to the people of Revelstoke through storytelling.