By Vanessa Broadbent
There are 385 different species of bees in the Thompson Okanagan region, according to Nancy Holmes of Border Free Bees.
She says it’s a fact that most people living in the area don’t know, and one of many that she’ll be sharing at her upcoming talk in Osoyoos on Saturday.
Holmes is an associate professor in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and she’s also one of the leaders of Border Free Bees, a public art initiative that aims to raise awareness about wild pollinators.
On Saturday, the Osoyoos Desert Society is finishing their Winter Program Series with a documentary on the plight of bees and their dwindling numbers.
Holmes’ discussion will follow the film and will focus on bees in the South Okanagan, which she says are even more prevalent in the Osoyoos area.
“It’ll be an overview of the project and various things that we’ve done,” Holmes said.
“We’re trying to use art to raise awareness about native pollinators, especially native bees … A lot of people know about honey bees and they’ve heard a lot about the plight of honey bees in terms of how they’re at risk.”
Due to factors such as diseases and pesticides, honeybee colonies are collapsing and many don’t make it through the winter.
But Holmes says that native bee species face the same problems, despite being less commonly talked about and researched.
“In the Okanagan we have a number of different species of native bees – bumble bees and mason bees and all kinds of other bees that are native to this place – and they too are suffering.”
While these bees may not produce honey, they are still crucial to humans.
“Scientists say that one in three bites of food is thanks to a pollinator, and that’s a lot,” Holmes said.
In the Okanagan, that includes all the fresh produce grown locally. But it also includes foods like beef because cows eat alfalfa, which is pollinated by bees.
And humans aside, most wild animals eat plants that need to be pollinated as well.
“It includes almost anything,” Holmes said. “If you’re interested in food, the environment, other animals, it’s super important.”
Holmes will also be sharing a few tips on how people can help out native bee species, like planting plenty of flowers.
“It’s easy, even if you have an apartment, you can have a box of flowering plants on your balcony,” she said.
“Bees need pollen and they need nectar and they need it from early spring until fall, so lots of flowers that bloom all year round, that’s the number one thing to do.”
The event is on Saturday, March 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos.