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To protect those colonies, it’s vital that natural watersheds are protected as bee habitat, with no development over the rich variety of pollen sources, he adds.

It’s important to maintain forage for bees all year round, including a wide variety of species of plants, whether native or domestic, he advises. Wading into a controversial issue, Cipes strongly disagrees with University of Calgary associate professor Ralph Cartar, an ecologist in the department of biological sciences, who spoke at an earlier session in this series on bumble bees, which he has studied for more than 30 years.

Cartar blames alien honey bees in part for the decline in populations of native bumble bees, because they compete with native bees for forage. Yet, bumble bees are particularly efficient at pollinating blueberry flowers, which do not have an open shape like some flowers have. However, Cipes contends it’s important that beekeepers provide forage for their bees so that isn’t the case. “If you keep bees, you must

provide food for them; increase the forage and increase the wild spaces available for them to forage.” Other reasons Cartar cited for the decline are habitat loss in general and fragmentation, because of both more- intensive agriculture and urban sprawl. He believes the honey bee, brought here from Europe to pollinate crops, has no place outside agriculture. Another reason for the decline in bee populations is pesticides, Cartar says, citing research that shows even if a pesticide such as a neonicotinoid is used in recommended quantities and doesn’t kill bees, it still does lower or prevent reproduction among native bees.

It’s also likely such pesticides interact with other factors in helping to cause population declines, he believes. However, B.C.’s provincial

apiculturist, Paul van Westendorp, says hundreds of studies carried out by credible independent researchers over the past 15 years indicate “there is no compelling and obvious correlation between the use (appropriate, according-to-label applications) of

neonicotinoids and the wholesale decline of wild pollinator populations.” Their use must be careful and responsible, however, and there are ongoing research trials to determine the impact of neonics on non-target organisms and the environment in general.

Van Westendorp questions what options are available to farmers if neonics are banned, and is concerned they will have to resort to the environmentally-damaging insecticides of the 1970s and 1980s. Or, there will be a sharp decline in overall agricultural production and quality while prices will increase.

Cartar notes that even climate change is contributing to native bee declines because it is shortening their geographic range—they have retracted their range in the south, but are not expanding in the north, he says. Populations of native bees in B.C. are very diverse, Cartar explained, but pavement and impervious surfaces are not good for bees, he warns, and Canada is becoming increasingly urban.


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016

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