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  • Jennifer Smith

Bee-lieve in Pollinators

by Jennifer Smith

It’s hard to bee-lieve but honeybee numbers are on the rise. After years of being told they were critically endangered, Statistics Canada has just reported that they saw over 794,341 bee colonies across the country - a 3.6% increase from 2022. 

My love of bees grew out of pure curiosity. I found a bumblebee on my window sill and thinking it was dead, checked the internet to see if there was anything I could do. After spending 24 hours making sure he was dry, warm, and full of sugar water he gained enough strength to fly off and back into the garden. I began watching him and others like him buzz around, collecting pollen and nectar, bringing it back to their hives, and caring for their queen. I started reading books about their colonies, and how they worked together to survive, and it opened my eyes to the beauty of the hive’s intricacies. The more I found myself fascinated by the little creatures, the more I heard people saying they were scared of them. I felt it was my duty to help people see bees the way I did.

I started slow, making sure people close to me were doing what they could to save the bees. Then I started Bee University whilst online during COVID. Small presentations highlighting the different types of bees, what they do, and how to identify a bee from a wasp. The reactions were great; children were interested and less scared. But it wasn’t enough. I needed them to know how to protect them and the most obvious thing seemed like the most logical - teach them how bees pollinate and they will protect the plants, too. 

We ran successful gardening clubs; we had members of the David Suzuki Foundation come and help us plan our pollinator garden, and most recently we held a few sessions where our students planted flowers and trees in our gardens learning about species native to our area and crucial to pollination. Our students started to appreciate that gardening isn’t just about growing plants; it's about nurturing life, understanding ecosystems, and fostering a sense of responsibility towards the environment. When children get their hands dirty in the soil, they learn invaluable lessons about patience, resilience, and the cycle of life. Watching a tiny seed transform into a flourishing plant teaches them about the miracles of nature and instills a sense of wonder and respect for the natural world.

One of the most pressing threats facing pollinators today is habitat loss due to urbanization and agricultural intensification. By teaching children about gardening, we provide them with the tools to create havens for pollinators in their own backyard. Whether it's planting native wildflowers, building bee hotels, or setting up bat boxes, children can actively contribute to the conservation of these vital species. In doing so, they learn that even small actions can have a significant impact on the health of our planet.

Over the last five years, I have found that engaging children in gardening and pollinator education fosters a sense of stewardship and environmental responsibility. When children understand the interconnectedness of all living things, they are more likely to make environmentally conscious choices in their daily lives. Whether it's reducing plastic waste, conserving water, or supporting organic farming practices, they become advocates for a greener, more sustainable future.

I have all the time in the world for teaching children about gardening and the importance of pollinators; it is an investment in the future of our planet. By fostering a love and appreciation for nature from an early age, we empower children to become stewards of the Earth and champions for environmental conservation. So let's roll up our sleeves, grab a shovel, and sow the seeds of a greener tomorrow in the hearts and minds of our children.


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