Postcard from Bee City

What happens in Bee City stays in Bee City.

March 19, 2019 | | Environment

Well, I’m back from Bee City, where I visited Mono’s fab new Pollinator Garden. What can I say? My head is still spinning. It’s big, bright, blossomy and bee-ootiful! You just have to go, girlfriends!

There was so much to eat and gather, you’d scarcely believe it. A girl had time to socialize, relax and really chow down! There were so many different pollens and nectars, and no need to hustle our buns here, there and everywhere to be first to the best blossoms. No far-flung foraging at dusty roadside dandelions for this girl! Just a scrumptious buffet all day, every day.

There was a smorgasbord of native Ontario blossoms, along with some yummy ethnic options like daisies and cranesbill geraniums that make the local cuisine so much more interesting. Mercifully, there were none of those exotic annuals that are all show and no flavour.

All the scrumptious pollens and nectars you could imagine were there for the taking, and not just in high season. The garden is planned so there’s always something tasty blooming from spring through fall.

There were heaping helpings of black-eyed Susans, blazing star, lupins, sneezeweed, ninebark, clover, and summersweet, with gently waving sides of bee balm, catmint, spiderwort and beardtongue. Yum! And unlimited refills! I don’t know how I was able to lift off afterwards. I was flying low ’n’ slow for days. LOL!

No kidding, I was living like a queen – without those tiresome mating flights and having to lay eggs all day long!

There were hardly any drones there, of course – the big, lazy loafers. I must say I didn’t miss them. Well, except for maybe Bruce…

Bee City’s Pollinator Garden is well beyond our usual 3k forage range, but well worth the trip. I was pooped when I arrived, but I was also thinking it’s “once in a lifetime.” Now I hope not!

I met really interesting bees from all over. I knew some of the domestics – Kim and Zoë from Island Lake say hi. I’d never met the wild bees from Monora Park. They were a hoot! We must try to get together more often. We’re all busy, but that’s no excuse. The entire bee gang was there, that’s for sure. You couldn’t swing a stamen without hitting a pollinator of some sort.

Honey bees are well represented. I was meeting sisters, half-sisters, stepsisters and sisters-in-law at every blossom. We “domestics” are ladies, of course, even on holidays. But the wild bees – the stories I could tell! Those girls are loud, sassy and ready to party at the drop of a pistil. It takes all kinds to make an ecosystem 😉

The cuckoo bees were there, as well as the sweat bees, orchard bees, the leafcutters, diggers, carpenters and miners. In decline? You never saw such a midway of different bees!

I didn’t mingle much with the wasps and hornets. They don’t seem that social, but one on one, they can really be quite interesting – once you get past that hard shell.

The mason bees were small and sweet. I loved their high-pitched accent. They’re so friendly and easy to get to know that after a while you don’t even notice all the mud.

Our noisy cousins, the Bumbles, were always throwing their weight around. Even the rain doesn’t slow them down! Would it kill those fatties to say “after you” or to push themselves away from the buffet once in a while? Seconds? Try sevenths!

And the hummingbirds? I get tired just thinking about them. They can’t slow down, even on holiday. Always so busy! It’s “Hi” and “Bye,” and they’re gone! With the beetles, you don’t even get that!

The moths were quiet and kept to themselves. Earnest to a fault. And their dress sense when they went out at night? How many ways can you do dull? It is all grey and taupe and tan fuzzies, even on a hot summer evening. They’re on holiday. Would it kill them to let loose and show a little underwing once in a while? What happens in Bee City stays in Bee City, after all.

Especially among the butterflies! Their motto is “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” They preen, they primp, they flutter. Subtle? Are you kidding me? They’re in crimsons, fuchsias, tangerines, translucent yellows and iridescent violets with black accents. And that’s just the guys!

They make a bee feel downright dowdy. Poor conversationalists, though, unless the subject is “me.” Still, if they actually alight, you can get to know them and they can be fun.

We have our differences, but we pollinators must stick together. We mingled and chattered and hovered and flitted, and I was sad when we had to go our separate ways. All in all, they were a lovely bunch.

Well, must buzz. I came back refreshed and relaxed and ready to be a working girl again. Still, I’m spreading the word. You’ve got to go to the Pollinator Garden in Bee City! Bzzzzzzzzzz!

What is a Bee City?

The Town of Mono was designated a Bee City in 2018. Bee City Canada is an organization dedicated to improving pollinator habitat and educating communities about the critical role of bees and many other pollinating insects in maintaining biodiversity and supporting a healthy food system. The organization encourages the use of pollinator-friendly plants and the elimination of pesticides.

First established in the United States, Bee City was a response to the decline in insect populations due to habitat loss, chemical controls, disease and climate change. The idea came to Canada in 2016, and Mono is now one of 23 Bee Cities nationwide. The town received its designation for advocating against the use of neonicotinoids, for its reforestation and native tree planting programs, and for the establishment of its Pollinator Garden.

The Pollinator Garden officially opened last August on Hockley Road adjacent to Island Lake Conservation Area. The opening marked the culmination of two years’ work by a team of volunteers who tilled the soil, then planted and now tend more than 2,200 pollinator-friendly perennials and trees. Occupying more than an acre, the demonstration garden features interpretive signage, a network of accessible trails, and resting benches. The garden is open free to the public at all times, and organizers invite elementary students, garden and service clubs, and other organizations to book a guided tour. See townofmono.com/mono-pollinator-garden.

About the Author More by Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins is a freelance writer and illustrator who lives in Mono.

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