U of G could “bee” the next Bee Campus
The University of Guelph is a powerhouse of bee support. Not only do we have numerous experts, but we also have an Animal Health Laboratory that tests for a range of honey bee pathogens, and the Honey Bee Research Centre. The research centre describes itself as “focused on honey bee health,” particularly bee genetics, behaviour, and parasites. They also teach one of the few beekeeping courses that’s recommended by the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association.
As a university with a long history of agriculture, and a large focus on the environment, it’s not surprising that we also have a plethora of natural spaces, like our woodlots and the sprawling arboretum, to match our beautiful green campus.
Bees are critical to our food supply and the health of our environment, pollinating up to an estimated 30 per cent of the food we eat ($900 million in crops per year in Ontario and up to 90 per cent of wild plants and flowers).
Bee populations are in decline due to several factors, including:
● Decreased immunity
● Pests and parasites
● Habitat loss
● Loss of food causing malnutrition and starvation
But the largest threat to bee populations is pesticide use.
With yearly losses, even among honey bees, at four times the sustainable level, people everywhere are becoming concerned for the future of bees and the plants they pollinate.
Ontario’s regulations prohibit the use of most pesticides by citizens, but allow those pesticides to be applied by anyone who acquires a licence to do so.
U of G goes beyond adhering to Ontario’s pesticide ban by not using problem pesticides even under the allowed licenced methods. Most of our lawns go untreated by herbicides, while high visibility areas, like the Gryphon Statue and the sports field, get treated with only Fiesta Lawn Weed Killer and vinegar — two green options listed under the Government of Ontario’s Section 11 restrictions. Both of these options are not believed to pose any threat at all to bees. Insecticides are very rarely used (only on select high-value plants) and insecticidal soap is the green alternative chosen for these scenarios.
Although there have been increases in cost for these newer, greener methods, and there are a few battles that the U of G grounds maintenance are struggling with — care of pines and white birch trees among them — the University’s grounds manager, John Reinhart, says that the effects have been quite good. He credits this partly to a phenomenon he says he was not expecting when the University made the 2008 switch. He states that “people started accepting ‘not perfect’” in their landscaping.
This move towards more natural-looking green spaces is allowing the University to be more environmentally-friendly as well as more bee-friendly.
The Importance of Bees
Bees are critical to our food supply and the health of our environment.
It is estimated that bees are responsible for pollinating 30 per cent of the food we eat.
GOOD FOR FOOD
Pollination by bees contributes to $900 million in crops per year in Ontario.
Bees pollinate up to 90 per cent of wild plants and flowers.
Photo by Karen K. Tran/The Ontarion