Hives for Humanity's Sarah Common [L] and her mother, Julia Common [R] with the help of Jim McLeod [M] check on a bee hive at the community garden on Vancouver's East Hastings.

Vancouver starts pollinator and honey bee education program

Vancouver is known for its greenery, affinity for parks and community gardens. But now it plans to do more to increase pollinator forage for both wild and domestic bees.
You almost can’t walk anywhere in Canada’s third-largest city without stumbling on a pocket park or lush garden. We’re known for our cherry blossom festival. We are run by a political party that in the last five years has developed more miles of bike lanes than almost anywhere else in North America.

Crocuses, those early-spring harbingers, provide some of the first sources of food for pollinators.(Copyright: Jeff Lee)

Crocuses, those early-spring harbingers, provide some of the first sources of food for pollinators.(Copyright: Jeff Lee)

It is also a city that has made it easier for people to keep backyard chickens and measures its progress on environmental issues through its “Greenest City Action Plan”. It allows hobby beekeeping, and in fact until recently there were a pair of hives on the roof of City Hall’s annex. They’re coming down, apparently, because the annex will at some time be demolished. But don’t worry, someone will find a place for beehives on some other civic building.
This week  the local park board upped the stakes with a public campaign for people to plant pollinator-friendly plants. And although many of the community gardens in city parks now sport hives, the city plans to go bee-crazy with the assistance of several groups, including Hives for Humanity. That’s the non-profit agency formed by Julia Common that offers education programs for people who live in the Downtown Eastside, the city’s poorest neighbourhood. The city recently awarded Hives for Humanity $20,000 or so from its Greenest City program.
Park Board chairwoman Niki Sharma told me she wants the city to become a veritable sanctuary for pollinators. Not in exactly those words, but certainly that appears to be the intent.
Feed The BeesI pointed out to her a number of valuable local resources, including Ian Tait’s Feed The Bees site. It works in conjunction with Earthwise Society out in South Delta on the old Tsawwassen Development (Spetifore) farm. Feed The Bees offers extensive resources,. Both organizations have produced a list of pollinator-friendly plants. Elizabeth Elle’s page at Simon Fraser University has a similar list for native pollinators.
Here’s the motion Sharma put on the park board agenda on Monday, and which was adopted unanimously. I’ts also printed below.

The Pollinator Project

MOVER: Commissioner Sharma


1. Bumble bees, honey bees, butterflies, and other pollinators provide
essential ecosystem services by pollinating crops, backyard gardens,
fruit trees, and native plants.

2. Honeybee health is declining across North America and many of our
native pollinators are susceptible to the same adverse affects of
industrial agriculture, urbanisation, disease, and pesticide use.

3. Many parks in Vancouver are inhospitable to pollinators because of
predominance of frequently maintained turf areas, lack of native
plants, and loss of overwintering habitats.

4. The Park Board’s Local Food Action Plan includes actions supporting
pollinators and community gardens provide important pollinator habitat.


A. Staff be directed to develop strategies for supporting pollinators in
priority Vancouver parks and streets as part of the Biodiversity Strategy
and Urban Forest Strategy.

B. Staff be directed to work with stewardship groups, community
gardeners, and others to raise public awareness about the value of
pollinators, facilitate habitat enhancement projects, and assess and
monitor pollinator populations.

C. Staff be directed to work with the VanDusen Botanical Garden
Association, Environmental Youth Alliance, Hives for Humanity and
other groups to develop a brand for promoting pollinators across the
city in spring 2014.

D. Staff be directed to begin to test methods in 2014 for enhancing
pollinators in parks such as creating unmowed meadows, planting
flowering trees and shrubs, using more native plants in park planting,
and restoring overwintering habitats.

E. Staff be directed to work with other City departments to enhance
pollinators in streets and development sites.

F. Staff be directed to provide an update to the Board in spring 2015.

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