June 18, 2020

You can 'bee' the change during Pollinator Week

Celebrate bees, butterflies and other unsung heroes June 22-28
Native bee specimens in UCalgary’s Digital Collection. Adrian Shellard

Have you thanked a pollinator lately? Pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats provide us with one out of three bites of food we eat. 

To align with UCalgary’s new Bee Campus designation from Bee City Canada, we have created pollinator habitat on campus through wildflower garden beds and solitary bee habitat structures at the Campus Community Garden. To show our gratitude to these amazing creatures, we are celebrating pollinators during National Pollinator Week, which takes place this year from June 22 to 28.

So much to bee thankful for

Bees are the major pollinators in North America and of the more than 800 species native to Canada, none of them produce honey. “Our native bees are incredibly diverse with over 300 species in Alberta,” says Megan Evans, president, Alberta Native Bee Council. “They are important because of the pollination services they provide, free of charge. Native bees pollinate native plants which become food and habitat that wildlife species rely on. They also play an important role in pollinating agricultural crops.”

You may wonder why native bees and other pollinators are deserving of a week-long celebration in their honour. Although they may be small and unassuming, our lives depend on them. Most of the world’s plants rely on pollinators for fertilization, so they can produce seeds, and subsequently, more plants. While they form the base of the food chain, plants also anchor soil to prevent erosion, fuel the nutrient cycle, act as carbon stores, and provide habitat and materials for all life on earth (humans included).

Nearly 75 per cent of crops worldwide depend on pollinators. This includes staples such as coffee, tomatoes and almonds, so it’s no surprise that pollinators like bees contribute greatly to global food security. Food security is the availability of, and an individual’s reliable access to, safe and nutritious food. As bees and other pollinator populations continue to decline, so too does the availability of vitamin-rich foods like fruits, nuts and many vegetables, leading to highly imbalanced diets for many.

There are many threats facing pollinators today. From chemicals in pesticides to habitat loss and climate change, pollinators around the world are struggling to survive. On a positive note, there are many things you can do to support pollinators in your community, like:

  • learn about native pollinators and share your knowledge with others
  • support producers who use pollinator-friendly agricultural practices
  • make sustainable lifestyle changes
  • ensure pollinators are a priority when planting your garden.

If you’d like to see how beautiful and diverse our native bees are, visit UCalgary’s Digital Collection of over 100,000 specimens. This collection of high-resolution photos and information was created through a partnership between the Faculty of Science, Libraries and Cultural Resources, and the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. It supports research to better understand bees and other beneficial insects, and identifies and protects endangered species.

Say thank you during Pollinator Week 2020

Due to COVID-19, UCalgary’s Pollinator Week celebration will be held virtually on Facebook and Instagram. Follow along during Pollinator Week as we share information about pollinators, actions you can take to help and bee-autiful giveaways, all while remaining socially distant. Follow us at @ucalgarysustain.

In addition, the first 45 people to take the Pollinator Pledge will receive a native wildflower packet from ALCLA Native Plants! Simply take the pledge, and forward the confirmation email and your mailing address to sustain@ucalgary.ca by June 28 to participate.

Have questions about pollinators? Email sustain@ucalgary.ca, or learn more about UCalgary’s Bee Campus designation. Pollinators support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by ensuring adequate food sources for the worlds populations (SDG 2 Zero Hunger), supporting good health and well-being with nutritious food and a healthy natural environment (SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG 13 Climate Action, and SDG 15 Life on Land), and contributing to resilient livelihoods and jobs for agricultural producers (SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to become a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.