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The Port Moody Farmers Market is happy to have Dr. Veronica Wahl, from the Institute of Urban Ecology (IUE)at Douglas College, leading a workshop on Mason Bees on March 22nd (sign up at Eventbrite). Veronica is the UNIBUG project coordinator at the Institute of Urban Ecology at Douglas College. The overall goal of UNIBUG is to engage community volunteers in learning about the ecology of urban gardens, with a particular focus on beneficial garden insects.

Last year during the 3rd-annual UNIBUG (User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden) forum, Douglas College launched its UNIBUG project on improving the understanding of wild pollinator populations in the region. The project initially began with monitoring bugs (such as beetles) that hunt pests and has grown to include monitoring pollinators, from hummingbirds to butterflies to the many types of bees. UNIBUG has grown to over 300 volunteers since its inception.

osmia_%20ribiflorisWith various bee populations in danger of extinction, a major part of this workshop will be learning how to make small nests for bees or “bee houses” to safely lay and hatch eggs. Unlike honey bees, Mason bees are solitary creatures that don’t congregate in hives and are not used for commercial pollination. It’s important to make their homes as welcoming as possible and ensure  they are well maintained.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture the common Blue Orchard Mason Bee is well adapted to the northern ranges of blooming fruit trees found in B.C.’s southern Interior and coastal areas. The Orchard Mason Bee is dark metallic green/blue in color, ranging in size from the females that are approximately 14 mm in length to the smaller males that are 11-12 mm. Their hairiness enables them to carry pollen grains from flower to flower, causing pollination to take place.

West Coast Seeds offers advice on how to attract Mason Bees and other pollinators by planting a diversity of flowers including a different heights, types and blossoming times. They suggest planting a bed of wildflowers and “you will be rewarded by the presence of all kinds of pollinators throughout the growing months, from bumblebees to hummingbirds and butterflies.”

Lindsay Coulter is a Public Engagement Specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation. Lindsay blogs as the Queen of Green and has written several articles on the care of Mason Bees. Find out how to care for your Mason Bees and when the time and temperature is just right to release them in the spring.

If you get an opportunity, you should view Douglas College’s rooftop garden and green house from the Aboriginal Gathering Place at the New Westminster campus. This hive of activity is a living laboratory for students and volunteers who want to learn about sustainable agricultural practices that use biological control of insect pests.

Douglas College is hosting an event that explores the links between sustainable energy and the agricultural sector, at their New Westminster campus on March 27th and 31st. You can learn more about the Institute of Urban Ecology at their information display from noon until 4:30 on the 31st and stick around for a panel discussion that afternoon.

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