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this species uses small holes in trees to nest, but gardeners and farmers can provide artificial homes for this species and benefit from its incredible pollination efficiency. Ground-nesting solitary bees can be encouraged by leaving areas of exposed and undisturbed soil. Hollow plant stems are another popular nesting site for solitary bees, so don’t be so quick to tidy things up or you will be eliminating important pollinator habitat. For several years now efforts have been underway to determine bee distributions in BC and the Yukon. Here at the Royal BC Museum we have approximately 15,000 specimens of bees already in the collection, and many of them have been identified through the volunteer efforts of Dave Blades, a research associate in Entomology, as well as Dr Cory Sheffield, a leading bee expert in Canada now working at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Staff from the BC Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada, as well as Royal BC Museum entomology staff and volunteers have been helping to improve these collections and provide a clearer picture of how this essential group of organisms is faring. This past summer was no exception, with collections made from Vancouver Island, northern British Columbia and the Okanagan. Perhaps as much as one third of the human food supply depends on

insect pollination, and I recently saw a cartoon of a bee with the caption: “If we die we’re taking you with us.” Pollinator declines are a serious issue that has been attributed to a myriad of impacts, including habitat loss and pesticide use. Individuals can help reverse these declines by choosing to eat pesticide-free foods, helping protect natural areas and providing habitat in urban areas through the use of native plants. The Xerces Society has a wealth of information available on their website about protecting pollinators and even offer pollinator habitat workshops. To gain the expertise really needed to identify bees for my work here at the Royal BC Museum,

a couple of years ago I took the bee course offered through the American Museum of Natural History and found it invaluable. As you read this in the fall, most of the solitary bees that will emerge in the spring next year are already tucked away in their burrows as larvae feeding on the pollen their mother provisioned; some may have already pupated and are ready to survive the winter. Their contributions to our well-being may not be obvious, but they are critical. If you have more questions about bees, or insects in general, contact me at

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What's inSight Fall 2014  
What's inSight Fall 2014