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Save the Bees

The GreenCare Community understands that promoting healthy lives means respecting the interdependence among all living systems through a balanced and healthy environment. This is why we value the local ecosystem through a support of bee keeping, also known as Urban Apiculture.

This past Earth Day, Sodexo, our food services management partners, launched an initiative in the cafeteria at Richmond Hospital to raise awareness about the importance of bee pollinators and inspire folks to plant flowers by giving out free seeds in a project called, Save the Bees. We sat down with Leanne Macphee, the site General Manager and initiator of Save the Bees, to find out more.

Q. Why is protecting bees and planting plants which support them important?

Bees are an important part of our ecosystem and they’re in danger due to pesticides, herbicides and habitat loss. They pollinate 1/3 of our food. Without them we wouldn’t have things such as: coffee, cocoa, vanilla, sesame, nuts and a variety of fruit and vegetables. (In order of importance of course). Planting bee friendly flowers provides the honey and wild bees with food. Dandelions are also a great first source of food for bees, so please don’t cut them! There are other insects, birds and small mammals which feed off of certain plants that are pollinated by bees, so we aren’t the only ones who will be affected if bees disappear.

Q. What was your Earth Day Initiative? How did it support Urban Apiculture?

Our Earth Day initiative was to educate our customers about the issues surrounding bees and what they can do about it. We set up a booth in the cafeteria at Richmond Hospital and gave away a package of wildflower seeds for every $5 spent. Usually, when retailers do giveaways or ballots for a draw, they put a certain dollar amount in hopes people will spend more to get the item. That was not our goal. We wanted to get as many bee friendly seeds out to our customers as possible to be planted this spring. So we made the amount to receive a free package of seeds our average check price. That way mostly everyone would get one and we wouldn’t run out too quickly.

This supported Urban Apiculture because not only will it provide more food for the bees, which you don’t see enough of in large cities, it educated, promoted and encouraged the value of pollinator gardens. Providing bee houses would support this further. I will be purchasing some to give out as prizes next time I run this type of event.

Q. Who started this initiative? What were the steps to make this happen?

I started this initiative, but I was inspired by the Honey Nut Cheerios campaign #BringBacktheBees. I wanted to do something to help. I researched to learn more about the situation, what we can do and what flowers are bee friendly. I thought about how I wanted to display the seeds and went shopping for materials. I then put together a poster to advertise for the event with some important facts that I thought might get people’s attention. I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to get across on one page so I plan to make another sign and post it for information purposes in our café and on our Facebook page. It was very simple.

Q. What was the response from the community?

We had a great response. There were a few people who were unaware of the bee situation, some who were glad to see we were doing something about it and that we were informed. We received lots of positive feedback. Some of the comments we received included:

  • “That’s a good idea. We need to save the bees.”
  • “I didn’t even realize the bees were so important.”
  • “I’m going to plant more flowers in my garden.”
  • “We should celebrate earth day every day.”
  • “It’s good that you guys are worried about the bees and the earth”

We ran out of seeds halfway through our lunch service. We will have to double up next time. My goal is to do this at all our retail locations every Earth Day. As well, I hope to do this again for National Honey Bee Day - August 20, 2016.

Q. What can other GreenCare Community members do to support bees in their own yards/patios?

  • Purchase bee houses to hang in their garden
  • Plant bee friendly and butterfly friendly flowers & plants (Butterflies are also pollinators and are at a historic low)
  • Buy organic and local foods
  • Don’t use pesticides or herbicides
  • Buy local honey – there is a fantastic honey farm in Vanderhoof (Blue Mountain Honey). It has the best honey I have ever tasted. They have a variety with amazing natural flavours such as; coconut honey, root beer honey, lemon-ginger, vanilla nut and raspberry!
  • Write to your local government about banning neonicotinoids (Bee Killing Pesticides). You can also take online action to support the ban.
  • Learn what you can do and spread the word. Honey Nut Cheerios is doing a great job with this. A colleague of mine was recently working in his garden when a few kids that were bike riding came up to him and asked him if he was planting wild flowers? He said, “No, why?” They explained what was happening to the bees and why there isn’t a bee on the cereal box anymore and asked him to spread the word, which he did. 

Q. What do you do in your life to support environmental issues?

I recently bought some bee friendly plants for my patio and signed the online petition to ban bee-killing pesticides, chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and promote ecological farming. I recycle, compost, conserve water and energy as much as I can. I bring my own bags when shopping, buy local and organic as much as possible as well as items that are made with recycled materials. I have switched all of my products to natural ones; from cleaners to hair products including a natural lip balm which contains Wildflower Honey from “Free Range Bees”. However, you need to be informed and read the labels because so many companies say their products are natural but are not.

Q. Where can people go to learn more?

Some great links to check out:

David Suzuki’s article on what you can do to help bees and butterflies.
Greenpeace’s website and petition.
How to plant a bee friendly garden with Beverley Bees.