A local specimen enjoying sunflower nectar. Karen Powell photo

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

It’s time to get buzzing about bumblebees as Friends of the Earth begins its third annual Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count.

The environmental organization has even launched a Bumble Bee Count app to help people across the country photograph, identify and locate bumble bees. The third annual count began Aug. 1.

Friends of the Earth Canada says there are more than 800 confirmed species of wild native bees in Canada.

“Last year we received more than 2,500 beautiful photos and descriptions of bumble bees from all across the country,” says Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada.

“With the launch of our new Bumble Bee Count app we’re hoping to receive even more in 2018.”

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still get involved by submitting your photos the the Friends of the Earth webpage.

More than two-thirds of the food crops we depend on benefit from pollination by native bees, honey bees and other pollinators. Friends of the Earth says bumble bees are especially important – they are capable of buzz pollination, making them particularly effective pollinators for certain crops and flowers including blueberries and tomatoes.

“Bees are facing the same climate challenges you and I face – from heat waves to fires and floods,” says Olivastri. “Add that to exposure to neonic pesticides, habitat loss and pathogen spillover from domesticated bumble bees, and Canada’s wild bees are under growing pressures to just survive.”

Photos and observations from the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count help signal changes in how bumble bees are dealing with these issues.

The rusty-patched bumble bee, once abundant in southern Ontario, is now almost extinct and officially designated as endangered, says the Friends of the Earth news release. On advice from scientists, the federal government has designated four more native bees for protection under the Species at Risk Act. The yellow-banded bumble bee is considered at risk after numbers in southern Canada declined by at least 34 per cent.

Check out some of the submissions so far on the Friends of the Earth Instagram feed, and get involved by downloading the app or visiting www.foecanada.org/en/issues/bumble-bee-count for more details.

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