Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes received a buzzing bundle of joy in the mail on April 1 – the mason bees he’d rented had arrived.
In early January, Haynes attended the Seedy Saturday event at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific and met Gordon Cyr, owner of Bee Canadian, a small business that has sold and rented mason bees in the Campbell River and Courtenay area for six years.
Cyr recently decided to expand the bee rentals to the South Island and the first Greater Victoria resident to sign up was Haynes.
Cyr explained that orchard mason bees a, native to Vancouver Island, require no maintenance – they simply go about their business pollinating the nearby gardens. He added that mason bees are “extremely friendly” and that people of all ages can enjoy watching the busy little bugs work.
While mason bees don’t make any honey, they are very effective pollinators, Cyr said – which is why Haynes was interested in hosting bees this year. In the fall of 2019, he and his wife had a living green roof installed on their new Prospect Lake home and planted a number of garden beds on the property. The Haynes’ gardens were specifically designed to support pollinators, birds and native plants.
For $25, Cyr provides 50 baby bees and a little housing unit to be installed around the end of March. Bees have a range of about 100 yards, he explained, and 250 bees can pollinate an entire acre. After pollinating all spring, the new generation of bees is laid in the nesting holes and the adults die. At the end of June, the bee-hotel – now full of cocoons – is returned to Bee Canadian and staff will care for them.
Cocoon-care includes harvesting, washing and checking for parasites, Cyr said. Handling each returned bee-hotel takes him and his team of about seven volunteers approximately three days. The new bees are then prepped for winter hibernation and then sent out for spring pollination the following year.
Typically, the rented bees can be picked up in person at farmers’ markets throughout the region but Haynes received his bees by mail this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like I’m an adoptive father,” he said of his newly arrived foster bees.
As directed, Haynes plans to hang the bee-hotel on an east-facing wall in the garden so the bees will get lots of light. On April 1, he said he’ll be waiting a few more days to let the weather get a little bit warmer before sending his baby bees out into the world to hatch and then pollinate his garden.