163 - Ian Tait - 2020 Year in Review


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] It's hard to stay on top of developments that are taking place with pollinators at the best of times. But 2020 was clearly a year that it was hard to pay attention to very much. We all had an immense amount of pressure in our personal lives and issues that were taking place on a national and global scale, so we may have missed some of these really amazing things that happened actually in 2020. There’s one person though, who did pay attention to every minute thing that was taking place with bee pollinators across the globe and that's Ian Tait.

[00:00:34] Ian is with the Feed The Bees initiative, which is designed to encourage individuals, businesses, and organizations, and government to support a healthy and sustainable bee population and is based out of Delta, British Columbia. And you may have noticed, Feed The Bees on your Twitter account or on Instagram. Every day for the past 365 days, Ian has been posting the most remarkable [00:01:00] initiative or science project that came on that day. So in this episode, you're going to get the full scope of what happened, what you missed in 2020, today on PolliNation with Ian Tait.

[00:01:21] I can remember earlier in the year saying, "this is another post." And it's like, "oh, it's got a day on it." And then I sort of noticed it keeps going and going and going.

[00:01:35] Ian Tait: [00:01:35] And on day 183, I said it was my halfway post point. It seems like ages ago.

[00:01:47] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:01:47] So, beginning on January 1st, 2020, Feed The Bees, you've been posting a story a day on how to plant more pollinator plants and its importance. [00:02:00] And I am really impressed with the amount of ground that you've been able to cover. Just to begin with, what possessed you to take on such a massive undertaking of a post a day on social media channels?

[00:02:13] Ian Tait: [00:02:13] It was a momentary lapse of memory. No, it was me thinking in the eyes of a reader saying, what could be the most engaging thing we do? How do we sustain it? And what interesting topics are out there that might be of interest to readers? And I just was sitting at my computer on January the first, and I said, well, "I'll decide to do a post a day, 366 of them in 2020."

[00:02:46] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:46] Tell us about the process. Because these are great posts. These are not just regurgitated simple things about pollinators. Some of these are in depth. How did you find these stories?

[00:02:58] Ian Tait: [00:02:58] Well, the amazing [00:03:00] thing is the interweb is an absolutely wonderful tool. And if you know how to look at it and you'll know how to use it and you know how to search - you can get very, very specific. I've also used alerts to stuff my inbox with all sorts of information on a daily basis. So I'm going out and I'm looking for news. I'm not looking for shlock, let's say.

[00:03:27] It's worked out exceptionally well just for example, I search "bee friendly gardens", I search "beekeeping bylaws", "feed the bees", "pollinator friendly plants", "pollinator gardens" and "pollinators". And I get at least between three and six stories a day. So it allows me to search for them. So [00:04:00] I'm not North American specific and that allows me to find wonderful stories like postage stamps of Åland which is an Island off the coast of Finland where they speak Finnish. Yet the government is Swedish or the other way around, I can't quite remember really. But it really is quite something. And I just look up stuff that's interesting and say, "Here it is, it's compelling. Here's a link to it if you want to learn more." And just leave it at that.

[00:04:28]Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:28] I could just see you in the morning with your cup of coffee, is it the Finnish postage stamp or is it the new study on different clovers?

[00:04:41] Ian Tait: [00:04:41] Or, is it pollinator license plates in the state of New Mexico? You know, it's a whole bunch of different things and underlying it all is, you know, what Feed The Bees is all about.

[00:04:53] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:53] We'll circle back around to Feed The Bees at the end of the episode. But right now you're [00:05:00] in the perfect vantage point to sort of tell us what happened in 2020 apart from pandemics and forest fires and all the things that happened. There's a lot going on in the pollinator world this year. And maybe to begin with, highlight for us some of the initiatives that you notice this year. Initiatives that got off the ground that were really remarkable. And maybe some of us missed in sort of the craziness of the year.

[00:05:26] Ian Tait: [00:05:26] Well the first one that I saw was day 44 and your listeners should know that the naming convention for every link to the original article is bit.ly/FTBDay and then the number of the day. So if you want to have potluck and it goes to, you know, bit.lyFTB day 247, you'll never [00:06:00] know what you're going to get. It's always a surprise.

[00:06:02] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:02] I've been doing it the old fashioned way. I'm just scrolling back through your Twitter feed.

[00:06:07] Ian Tait: [00:06:07] Oh, my goodness. Yeah, you can go blind. I'm not kidding.

[00:06:11] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:11] Okay, so day 44.

[00:06:13] Ian Tait: [00:06:13] So yeah. So day 44 was managing grassland and road verges. So road verges are verges and roundabouts, it's all of that wasted space you'll find in a Cloverleaf interchange both on the approaches going to the right, to the left over, over the highway and around the other way. All of that grass in there could be an oasis for nature. And three organizations got together, one was the Wildlife Trust in the UK, wildlifetrusts.org and the other one was Plant Life and the other one was the Butterfly Conservation Trust. And they set up a guide [00:07:00] that was absolutely wonderful, and it's something you can download and a lot of councils, which is local governments in the UK are adopting it and implementing it.

[00:07:12] So it's really quite something to see that. And when you think about across the UK, there's 300,000 miles of road verge, and if you manage it for wildlife, while keeping safety in mind, could provide a huge network of corridors and refuge for nature. So that's straight off the website. Another one that I saw replicate that was down in a section of highway in Georgia, where they had very successfully planted it. And if you think about that, in the spring they hack it all down and that's just done away with all the early sources and then the companies that are maintaining it come out in mid-August and get rid of it.

[00:07:55] Well there's an awful lot of other things that require that. So as long [00:08:00] as you don't have to mow for safety reasons and visibility reasons, then why not just let it go fallow. So that was a really interesting book and it's a booklet that your listeners can download as well and it's at wildlifetrusts.org and it's "Managing Grassland and Road Verges a Best Practice Guide". And I love best practices. So anyway, it's really quite something. And this was all a result of the symposium that they had called, "Managing Roadside Verges for Biodiversity in Times of Austerity." So it was really something. So that's number one.

[00:08:47] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:08:47] I'm actually just looking at it right now. It's really well put together. It's got British plants, but it does kind of like lay the problems out. Fantastic. Okay, great. Number two!

[00:09:00] [00:08:59] Ian Tait: [00:08:59] Number two, rather than a study, was a resource. And it can be found at pollinator.org and it's selecting plants for pollinators. And there's a whole website there, this is for a Canadian and USA listeners alike. They're called "Ecoregional Planting Guides, Selecting Plants for Pollinators", and they're tailored to specific areas in the United States and Canada. And it's so simple all you have to do is enter your United States zip code in one field and hit search. Or if you're in Canada, it's the first three digits of your Canadian postal code and hit search.

[00:09:40] And each one you will get an opportunity to download 24 pages of native planting information in PDF format. And in the United States it goes from region, right? So it's Adirondack the Southern Rocky Mountain Steppe and everything in-between and in Canada, it's from [00:10:00] Algonquin Lake Nipissing to Western Vancouver Island. So it really is quite unique.

[00:10:05] And remember what I said, native plants love native bees. So, if you can find your ecoregional planning guide and select the right kind of plants for pollinators in your area, you'll be halfway, almost three-quarters of the way to helping them even more. And then of course now is the time to plant, you know what type of garden you have, you know what you're going to be planting in the spring. And again, looking at those native plants, will really, really help. And here's a 24 page guide that you can download or use yourself.

[00:10:39] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:10:39] You know, it's a really under used resource. I have to say, they've put a lot of work into that, especially in British Columbia. Like I think there's like three guides that cover the province or more. I mean, they've really put a lot of thought into what constitutes these. And I'm always amazed when people don't know about it. So I'm really [00:11:00] glad that you brought people's attention to it.

[00:11:02] Ian Tait: [00:11:02] I mean, in Canada, there's a separate regional planning guide for Haida Gwaii.

[00:11:06] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:06] Yeah. I saw that.

[00:11:07] Ian Tait: [00:11:07] So Haida Gwaii is meeting a lens of the people? So it's a unique ecosystem up there and of course it's off the coast in the middle of the ocean, water all around it. You know, numerous islands in the archipelago, both North and South, and here they have recommendations for that community and that locale as well. So it's really, really quite something. Prince Edward Island is in the same thing. It's all by itself. But you know, in Vancouver Island, you've got Eastern Vancouver Island and Western Vancouver Island. So you've got Eastern Vancouver Island, which is on the land side of the equation. And of the course the Western side is exposed to the Pacific Ocean. So of course there's going to be different types on both sides.

[00:11:54] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:54] But one does have to take a dig at PEI. I mean, we're heavens sakes. [00:12:00] They always have to have their own stuff. I love PEI and I spent a long time there, but they have their own Senator and stuff too.

[00:12:10] Ian Tait: [00:12:10] And 160,000 people. I think they've got four members of parliament.

[00:12:18] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:18] We love you PEI.

[00:12:20] Ian Tait: [00:12:20] So that was on day 39. So the last one, I go back over the water and I look at what's called the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, pollinators.ie and look for the tab that says All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, right up at the top. And wouldn't, you know, the typeface is in green. So this is an amalgamation of so many different partners that it's really, [00:13:00] really quite something. And it was developed, the first plan covers the period of 2015 to 2020, and a new version will be developed to cover 2021 to 2025.

[00:13:14] And it was launched by the National Biodiversity Data Center. So they have ideas for farmland, for councils, which is like a local and regional government communities, which is a civic government, businesses, gardens, schools, faith communities, transport corridors, that's that verges and roundabouts again, site specific guidelines, helping endangered pollinators, and newsletters, and all sorts of free resources. And you notice that I used the "f" word again, it's free. Right. Everything that I found that I've quoted is free and the amount of resources that people are willing to share is just absolutely unbelievable.

[00:13:55] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:55] Well, it's great to also see a national level plan. You've covered [00:14:00] a number of States and provinces that have initiatives or counties, but it's really great to see a national level plan that's so coordinated.

[00:14:09] Ian Tait: [00:14:09] Oh, for sure. I mean, you think of the Oregon Bee Project, for example, done in partnership with Xerces Society in Portland, Oregon. It's an amazing thing using the citizen science and people spotting what they see and reporting it back in. And again, having those lists of resources available to you as well. There's a lot of these organizations that I mentioned are active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. So it's just a question of searching the boat. That was on day 18.

[00:14:45] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:14:45] Okay, great, thanks for the day. And I've figured out the naming convention. There was a lot of letters that you read out there, but it's real simple and we will have it in the show notes so that people can quickly scan [00:15:00] through and follow along. We started talking about initiatives, why don't you walk us through some of the science that happened this year. Some of the cool, interesting science that maybe we missed?

[00:15:15] Ian Tait: [00:15:15] A recent one was day 351, and this might be something that is one of those, "oh really people are looking at that?" And this was 351 and it was rearranging nest boxes keeps more blue orchard bees around. So it was a study that was done and it appeared in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Insect Science. And it was a recent research experiment who showed that the blue [00:16:00] orchard bees can be a sustainable option in tart cherry orchards.

[00:16:04] And a simple change to the distribution of nesting boxes, makes the bees more likely to remain in the origins of the nest. Which is a crucial requirement for their viability as a cost-effective managed pollinator. Now, usually people just get a mason bee house or a little bee box, or what have you, and, you know, admire the little weed plugs that they're doing and the green leaf cutter bees. But this is something that says, if you plant it in a certain way, not only will they pollinate the immediate area, but they'll also stay in the area because there will be sufficient crevices and panes for them to nest in. And again, the uniform distribution of nest boxes resulted in higher nesting and larger production then zones with a large central nest.

[00:16:50] And you've got to remember that mason bees, where a honeybee has a huge range in terms of where it will go [00:17:00] for a nectar source and then tell all her sisters and they'll make a "beeline" towards that nectar source. Mason bees have a much smaller area that they go out and prospect it let's say. So you concentrate them and they're not going to travel the great distances, but again, in tart cherry, which probably coincides blossoming with their mating and creating all of those little tubes full of larva they are going to be staying in the general area.

[00:17:37] So it was quite something the image that came with it looked like a deck of cards being laid on top of it. You know a 10 of hearts a five of hearts. Well, there's another 10, there's a two. So it must be something. And of course, again, you're talking about [00:18:00] science. The product here was found from the Entomological Society of America. So that was a little bit more too.

[00:18:09] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:09] Yeah, and that comes from the great folks at the USDA Bee Lab in Logan, Utah. It's a great study and they have a lot of tart cherry and tart cherry research with mason bees going on in Utah. It's a great study and it's good to see, like, if you just disperse those nests around the orchard you get better returns. So a great tip for farmers that are trying to use these bees for pollination.

[00:18:36] Ian Tait: [00:18:36] Yeah. And of course they'll be staying over, right? Because there'll be looking for or crevices or what have you, returning to their bee nesting block. So I guess timing is everything. And if you've got enough food source around them, pollen and nectar from tart cherries, then bingo. That's all they need and away they go.

[00:18:54] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:54] Okay. What else is up in your [00:19:00] 366 card sleeve?

[00:19:05] Ian Tait: [00:19:05] Back on day 272 it was a review of enhancing road verges to aid pollinator conservation. So remember that book that I had talked about earlier in that article? Well, this was a review of science that was out there and the highlights of it were road verges have considerable potential to be used for pollinator conservation. Verges can be hotspots for flowers and pollinators in managed landscapes. Traffic and road pollution can cause mortality and other impacts on pollinators. Evidence suggests that the benefits of road verges to pollinators outweigh the cost of maintenance, cost of mowing, et cetera. And road verges can be enhanced for pollinators through strategic management. So that was in [00:20:00] Science Direct and it was really quite the study.

[00:20:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:05] I'm just looking at one of the graphics associated with the study and they break it down into like six questions, question three is maybe you do pollinator enhancement the insects are just going to get squished by passing cars, or maybe the pollution might affect the bees. So it kind of like breaks it out into these possible outcomes. And I guess the research goes through and addresses all of this.

[00:20:36] Ian Tait: [00:20:36] Yeah, exactly. You have a setback where you're growing which is hopefully sufficiently away. But remember if you're talking about native pollinators - here's a math lesson and you know, there's 22,000 plus species of native bees in the world, there's seven species of managed bees in the world. And thousands of other pollinators, [00:21:00] 70% of those native bees are found below ground they're mining bees, their digger bees. So, if you think about it and are looking for a short flight path from all of those native pollinators to get to a source of pollen and nectar, it could achieve quite sizable results.

[00:21:20] There's part of this bare piece of land up where I live here in North Delta, BC. Which I go by in the summertime and the surface of the dirt looks like it's living -  there's so  many small bees going in and out and darting here and there. And I took a small stool and try to take some photos, but I really sucked at that, but didn't get many photos. But man, they're all around you, you know, you don't necessarily have to look up for on top of flowers. All [00:22:00] you gotta do is look straight down and they're there!

[00:22:03] So going back to enhancing road verges they reviewed, identified and synthesized 140 studies. And again, there's a science behind it. There’s a review of evidence-based management guidance for it. So it's really quite something. So that was day 272.

[00:22:24] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:24] Wow. That's a great one.

[00:22:26] Ian Tait: [00:22:26] Yeah. And the last one which I thought was really, really good was on day 255, and this was, range land provides habitat for pollinators and it was produced by the Xerces Society as well as the Natural Resources Conservation Service. And the headline was, "food, shelter, connectivity, and absence of insecticides are the four general components of pollinator habitat". The statistic said, although the [00:23:00] amount of range land in the United States has decreased vast amounts still remain in fact, there's over 700 million acres. So one of the best things we can do for pollinators is managed rangelands in the manner that provides them with good habitat. So, you know, there's an article about that. And then there's also a six page guide for producers, a PDF file that can be downloaded as well. So you think about it, it's not just city dwellers, it's not just orchardists, it's everybody and there's a chance to do it on range land as well.

[00:23:37] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:37] That's fantastic. And I do remember we had a researcher working in Virginia who was working on large swaths of unimproved pasture land - minor conversions and trying to work out how you can add more forbes into the mix without increasing costs. There's some great, great findings [00:24:00] to be made there. A good synergy between range land managers and conservation. That's great. Okay. That's fantastic. Those are really great. I didn't know about any, well, I knew about the tart cherry study, but I didn't know about the other two. I'm going to bookmark those for later.

[00:24:23] You've used social media and you reached a really large audience and you introduced them to some cool bees. Did any of the bees in your mind stick out that were also kind of new to you?

[00:24:35] Ian Tait: [00:24:35] Well I didn't know, for example, that Australia has a blue carpenter bee and on day 296, we put up a picture of a blue carpenter bee and provided a little bit of information on what it is and what have you. And that was an absolutely amazing, amazing response. I think we've got on our Instagram page [00:25:00] 228 reactions to it. So, you know, and that's a good thing.

[00:25:05] So a blue carpenter bee, "who da thunk it?". Turning to Australia again, there's the blue banded bee and that was on day 315. And let's see if my memory serves me, if it's got four bands on its abdomen, four blue bands on it's abdomen it's a female. If it's got five blue bands on its abdomen it's a male.

[00:25:28] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:28] It's the most adorable bee.

[00:25:30] Ian Tait: [00:25:30] Yeah, exactly. And when they roost, they sink their big mandibles into a leaf stem and they all huddle together. So, you know, there's some really interesting pictures up there when you look at blue banded bees. It's just amazing. The other thing I started and they're pollinators too - I started a "moth Monday”, hashtag moth Monday, anyway and I [00:26:00] came up with some just recently day 354. Oh, my God, that was only a few days ago, you know, today is day 355. It was yesterday. Yesterday was Monday! We featured Dysphania militaris, oh geez. I love latin. Anyway, it's called the false tiger moth and it's gorgeous.

[00:26:25] It's endemic in Southeast Asian countries, such as China, India, Myanmar, Andaman Island, Sumatra and Java first described by Carl Linnaeus in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae published in 1758. So it is just gorgeous and for your listeners, it's a vibrant blue with a whole patchwork of yellow and a banded abdomen. And it's just unbelievable. It really is quite something.

[00:27:00] [00:26:59] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:26:59] Yeah the combination of that yellow and that blue it's a striking moth. Wow.

[00:27:04] Ian Tait: [00:27:04] And you begin to wonder where kite designs come from in that part of the world.

[00:27:10] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:10] I'll buy that kite. If I ever saw it, that'd be awesome.

[00:27:16] Ian Tait: [00:27:16] But wait, there's more!

[00:27:18] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:18] Keep going.

[00:27:19] Ian Tait: [00:27:19] Yeah. A week ago, Monday, December the 14, day 347 in fact. Chrysiridia rhipheus the Madagascar sunset moth a day flying moth that is endemic in Madagascar.

[00:27:37] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:37] Wow. This is a crazy looking critter.

[00:27:40] Ian Tait: [00:27:40] It's considered to be one of the most impressive and appealing looking Lepidopterans. And again, I've just put a link to generic information on it. But, you know, when you find an image like that, it just takes your breath away. And [00:28:00] again, this is all about engaging people and providing them with some information and then hopefully getting them excited about the world of pollinators - some in their own backyard and some worldwide.

[00:28:14]Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:14] It's so important. I mean, I do think that the wow factor of just like, "these creatures exist, my goodness."

[00:28:25] Ian Tait: [00:28:25] Well, if you consider that bats and lemurs and hummingbirds are also considered pollinators. You know, you look at it again, 22,000 species of native bees, seven species of managed bees and thousands of other species of pollinators. So it's just amazing. The hashtags that I always use are, bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, native bees, solitary bees, mason bees, mining bees, stingless bees, sweat bees, managed bees pollinators, native plants, pesticide-free, feed the bees, and feed the bees 365. So if [00:29:00] people follow hashtags, which you can do on social media, you'll get a plethora of information coming up in your news feeds as well.

[00:29:10] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:10] So I imagine a lot of this was new to you. So in sort of striking it out in this project, you were in some ways looking for information yourself?

[00:29:20] Ian Tait: [00:29:20] Oh, absolutely. I'll tell you how we got there, in the next part of the podcast.

[00:29:31] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:31] Well, before we get to that, just tell me a little bit about the response. So you've done a lot of different posts, you're covering a lot of different area. This is international in scope. Tell us a few stories about some of the responses you've gotten.

[00:29:44] Ian Tait: [00:29:44] Well, I've been contacted by so many different organizations worldwide, you know, you've got the, the Scottish Beekeepers Association. You've got Bug Life, which is [00:30:00] a great organization in the UK with branches in Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. The Australia Native Bee Association - so whether it's beekeepers or the Butterfly Trust, save butterflies, I think, is their handle on Instagram. I've had lots of opportunities to engage people to say, "Hey, can you please share this?" and the other thing I've been doing too is signing up for webinars. So I'll go online and I'll do a search and another key word is, "webinars". And I'll see exactly what's coming up and I'll register to attend.

[00:30:50] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:50] That's fantastic. Well, I'm glad to hear that the response has been amazing. I certainly kind of saw it [00:31:00] pop up and then I've been following it as it comes along every day. Now I'll be sad when we hit December 31st.

[00:31:12] Ian Tait: [00:31:12] Exactly. Well, I'll be able to take all the band-aids off the ends of my fingers. Hopefully let them heal. So here's an example of the webinars I've attended recently, "Building Pollinator Habitat in Towns and Cities", "Build a Garden for the Birds and Pollinators'', the "Wild World of Bees" lecture series. Here's another one, "Barriers, Bylaws and Biophilic City Advancing". So it was quite different as well. And yesterday was, "Wild about Bees'' in support of PollinateTO.

[00:31:54] So it doesn't matter where it is, if it's a seven o'clock webinar in the UK [00:32:00] for you and I out here in the Pacific time zone, seven o'clock minus eight, that's 11 o'clock in the morning. So, you know, 11 o'clock to eight 30 and you have a chance to take part in it.

[00:32:11] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:11] You know, I think that has been really a defining feature of the pandemic year is webinars. There is so much content and so many activities. Especially, if you didn't live in a large city, if you lived in, let's come up with a British Columbia example, if you lived in Williams Lake. You didn't get a lot of stuff coming your way, but now suddenly you can go to Toronto, you can go to Oregon, you can go to California and you can get some great education.

[00:32:43] Ian Tait: [00:32:43] Yeah. And what I've done on our Facebook page, Andony is looked out in "Facebook land" for events. So, you know, I've got them listed and of course I share them on our page as well. I don't take credit for it because it's somebody else's event, but I try to find [00:33:00] the free one. So Monday, January 4th, "Planting for your 2021 Garden. Friday, January 15th, "Invasive, Native or Exotic." That's again, the plant choices that you're making and on Tuesday, January the 19th, "Butterfly and Pollinator Gardening 101". So there's been a whole bunch of past events, so I'm going to start searching after you and I have chatted and add more there as well.

[00:33:28] But again, you've got the ability to search Facebook. You do "pollinator garden", you come up with a list and you go down on the left-hand side and click on events. And the current events, the date of the coming events is listed in red. So it really makes it easy for you to find it and take part. And I do it all the time. You know, my late father was a teacher and his favorite mantra was, "when you're finished learning, you're finished."

[00:34:00] [00:34:00] In other words, you're not here anymore. So it's something that resonated with me and something that I continue to do. And you know, I'm not a beekeeper, I'm not a scientist, I'm not a gardening expert. I'm just a guy who's interested in all this and happens to be a big cheerleader for what we're doing and what your listeners and others are doing to help the bees and the pollinators on an ongoing basis.

[00:34:27] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:27] Well, fantastic. Well, let's take a break or we're going to come right back and have you tell us a little bit about, more about Feed the Bees, what it's about and where you're planning to take things. So, we'll be right back.

[00:34:39] Ian Tait: [00:34:39] Absolutely.

[00:34:39] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:39] Okay. We are back and I guess we were just talking at the break, this second segment, you're going to tell us, how did it all start? So, Feed The Bees. What is this initiative? And where did it come from? And what was it hoping to accomplish when it was formed?

[00:34:55] Ian Tait: [00:34:55] Well, it's an interesting question. And we certainly had an interesting genesis. I [00:35:00] was on the board of the Delta Chamber of Commerce at the time, which is the Chamber of Commerce representing our community. Delta has three distinct communities and in landmass we are three times the size of the city of Vancouver, but we're only hosting 110,000 people. That's because we've got a huge raised peat bog. I think one of the biggest in North America, Burns Bog right in the middle of us and a whole bunch of farmland, within the Agricultural Land Reserve and all being actively under production. So it's really quite a huge community.

[00:35:39] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:35:39] Yeah. There's things like cranberries there, but there's also a lot of greenhouses.

[00:35:44] Ian Tait: [00:35:44] Yeah, there's cranberries, there's extensive blueberries, potatoes, beans. There's all manner of stuff. So you've got commercial agriculture, but also you've got small scale [00:36:00] agriculture, a lot of certified organic farms as well. So that's delicate.

[00:36:05] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:05] Okay.

[00:36:06] Ian Tait: [00:36:06] So we were at the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the Delta Farmers Institute came to the Chamber in 2008 and said, "look, there's bees dying off, we're really worried about our pollination services that we get from our manage our pollination services providers. And what can you do?" So the chamber looked at it and reached out to a partner organization within the community called the Earthwise Society, which has a certified organic garden and farm with operations in Delta and out the end of the Fraser Valley at Agassiz, BC.

[00:36:44] And so I sat with Patricia Fleming, who was the Executive Director of the Earthwise Society. And we had a chat and said, well, what can we do? And the answer [00:37:00] was, we're not going to talk about pesticides because we don't know what it is. We're not coming in to talk about beekeeping because we're not beekeepers. We know something about pollinators and pollinator planting and the right kind of plants - so why isn't this a call to action?

[00:37:18] And that's exactly what happened. So, our mantra there was, "we need to plant more and we need more of you to plant so there's pollen and nectar from March to October." The subtext of that is a call to action to individuals, organizations, governments, businesses, associations, to do the right thing and plant more bee and pollinator friendly plants.

[00:37:41] And it was just that simple and it started from there. So that was the genesis and we've just started building on it. We had a panel to help guide us through the initial period, organizations like the Delta [00:38:00] Farmland and Wildlife Trust, the provincial apiculturist Paul van Westendorp lives in Delta and he also helped out as well. And, we finally just got the ball rolling and we put up a website and started social media at various different times. And it's just grown from then.

[00:38:19] We're able to do complementary events at Earth Wise, such as a bee friendly plant sales and workshops, mason bees there's a "host a hive" throughout the garden and a big harvesting time that I think yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 different cocoons at the end of the period. So, we practice what we preach and there's examples over there. And there's people that come into the garden for their school aged kids. There's people who come in for a therapeutic horticulture experience, there's people that come in because they are garden buddies with one of our volunteers.

[00:38:57] So it really is quite an [00:39:00] oasis and quite a learning opportunity that we've got there as well all tucked away in Tsawwassen, which is the beachfront community. You go through Watson to get to the BC ferry terminal over to Vancouver Island. So that's the way it all started. And you know, I look at the day 1 post, if I could turn back the hands of time.

[00:39:26] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:39:26] Let's turn back the hands of time. And if I remember the goal was to get more people planting more plants.

[00:39:39] Ian Tait: [00:39:39] Yeah, so day 1, the very first post. Oh, I remember it well, January 1st, 2020 seems like 356 days ago. It started, "we want to engage and inform and encourage more of you to plant more bee and pollinator friendly plants to feed the worlds [00:40:00] 22,000 plus species of native bees, seven species of managed bees and all other pollinators. That's it. We choose not to make, stock or sell clothing jewelry, bee related products, seeds, wristband, stationary, carry bags or cards. Nothing nada, bupkis. We will provide you with information, ideas and resources starting today for each and every day of 2020. Standby for more."

[00:40:26] So it's in keeping with what this organization has done and continues to do. And again, it just allowed us to focus on something quite interesting.  And one of the things that we did was prepare a guide, which was, "Bee Friendly Plants for your Garden and Farm." It also has a bit.ly shortcut and it's [00:41:00] OurPlantGuide. What we did was in the garden, go out from March through October, and we actually took an inventory of every plant that we saw that had a pollinator on it. And we classified them in terms of plant shade, plant herbs, and came up with an extensive list.

[00:41:27] We then also noted the flowering month that each one had. And so that's what the categories look like. We shared the whole list and said, "you know what do you think are the best?" He whittled out a few, he added a couple of others. These are all native plants to British Columbia, our growing area. And we posted it. So there's an eight page PDF, that's downloadable and it'll  give you columns of its Latin name, its conventional name, the [00:42:00] species and a picture of it.

[00:42:06] So, you know exactly what's, what exactly, where to plant it. And most importantly has lots of stuff that shows in that dearth period between June, July, and August. So it's really, really been helpful. The other resource that we have in town is a company called West Coast Seeds, three separate words. And they have certified organic seed stock and a recent blend that they just came up with for pollinators was named after Dr. Bonnie Henry who's our provincial Chief Medical Officer and has sort of been the calm amidst the storm of the pandemic that we're all dealing with. And a wonderful, wonderful person that is a very skilled doctor.

[00:42:54] And this was one of the things that was done as a tribute to her, with all [00:43:00] proceeds being donated to provide food for disadvantaged individuals and communities. I may have a catalog where they ship worldwide and they also have an extensive mason bee section as well. So, you know, there's a lot of resources close at hand, so we decided to use them. So that was that.

[00:43:22] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:43:22] All right. It sounds like the organization has been stood up. You've got lots of great initiatives going on in Delta. What does 2021 look like for Feed The Bees? What have you got planned?

[00:43:35] Ian Tait: [00:43:35] Taking a break. It's compelling, it won't be on an as frequent basis, but it'll certainly continue in the vein of what we’ve talked about, Andony over the last while. It's again, providing those information, those ideas, the resources and still a call to action that'll allow people to understand what's going on not only in their neighborhood, [00:44:00] but across North America and around the world.

[00:44:03] It's really quite interesting. You search for pollinators in Alaska and you'll find out what challenges they face up there. You look at pollinators and Madagascar, and of course it's quite, unique flora and fauna that they have there, nowhere else in the world. And it's really, really quite something. So the amount of learning that can be done off it and the amount of resources for children as well. If you put  in quotes "pollinators for children", and then hit a space, then did .PDF. You know, if there are any educators out there and anybody dealing with young students or any students, you look at the amount of resources that come back.

[00:44:47] And then by putting that .PDF there, you're confining it to something that gives you a publication, you don't necessarily have to look through everything. It's instantaneous and it really is [00:45:00] quite handy. And, you know, pick something you can further modify it for grade 4, for middle school, senior school for grade 11 biology. It's just whatever you'd like to do, but again, the resources are there and they're intended to be used and hats off to the organization that have spent time and energy to put those whole things together and then make them available free of charge. And it's so close. So close, just a mouse click away.

[00:45:28] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:45:28] Fantastic. Well, let's take another quick break and we'll come back. We've got our questions that we ask all our guests. I'm so curious, someone who's been really kind of taking such a broad scope, what your recommendations are. We'll be back in just a minute.

[00:45:43] Okay. We're back. So do you have a book recommendation for our listeners?

[00:45:51] Ian Tait: [00:45:51] But anyway, and I'm certainly glad that cameras are off on the zoom call this [00:46:00] morning. So yeah, my recommendation, I have to go to a local author and one who I understand has been a guest on your show and she is a gift. This was day 278, "10 tips for creating a bee friendly garden" and it's a Vancouver based educator and artists, Lori Weidenhammer. And her book is "Victory Gardens for Bees, a DIY Guide to Saving the Bees." And it's a fantastic resource, she's a big advocate if you follow her on Instagram, it's beespeaker.

[00:46:39] Yeah. So it really is quite something. And again, "10 tips for creating a safe garden space that will provide bountiful benefits for bees and other pollinators" and that's on day 278. [00:47:00] So I’d recommend that to your listeners as well.

[00:47:04] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:47:04] I'm so glad Lori is so talented, and she really is an amazing communicator. And also she has just been at the center of a lot of initiatives in BC, around native bees. I really recommend the book and I'm so glad that you've recommended it. It is fantastic.

[00:47:20] Ian Tait: [00:47:20] Yeah, absolutely. And I think on Facebook, she has another handle where she shows pictures of baking, which of course, I think everybody in the world is baking. And I remember at the beginning of this terrible year. You couldn't buy any yeast or flour in the stores, let alone toilet paper. So anyway. 

[00:47:49] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:47:49] Well that brings me to number two, your go-to tool. So when you don't have any yeast, like, what are you going to do? You've talked about [00:48:00] extensively using the internet as a tool. There's not a lack of resources out there, but, you know, going and finding them. And I think your initiative this year was a really great example of actually it's all out there.

[00:48:15] Ian Tait: [00:48:15] Yeah, and that was going to be my recommendation. My go-to tool is the interweb. And you know, whether it's again, looking for those educational resources for teachers or parents or grandparents, it's all there. Use a .PDF and see what you get. Checking out  some of the organizations that we've talked about the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Xerces Society, Plant Life and Wildlife Trusts - they all have resources. They all have education and again it's just a mouse click away.

[00:48:54] Following hashtags that are of interest to you, whether it's "kitties of Instagram" or [00:49:00] something that I do, which is, "bee friendly gardens". It will come up with something on a daily basis. And of course if you search for those items in the web browser that begins with G and ends with E will be able to create a news alert where those stories will be put right into your inbox and you can read them at your leisure. Use your email system to put them in folders, not come up your inbox. So you know exactly where the topic is and exactly where it is in your folder list. So it's really quite something. So the tools are out there, they are a mouse click away. What are you waiting for?

[00:49:44] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:49:44] Well, I love how courageous you are with it. Because I think for some people it's just like, "oh yeah, I'm going to put grade nine." Like you were saying before the break there, it's like I’m looking for educational material and I'm looking for something grade nine and I'm going to just put as much in that search box to get as specific as [00:50:00] possible. And it's only then that you really turn up the gems.

[00:50:03] Ian Tait: [00:50:03] Exactly. And again, if you use quotes to delineate exactly the phrase you're looking for that helps it narrow it even more. And I mean, when you put a search in there and you say, "oh, I got 11 billion results in 3.2 microseconds, holy Moses." I remember the days of going to the library and going through a card catalog. So it's changed quite a bit and it really is there. So, you know, when you think of parents, kids on holiday season break, put them to work, start planning your pollinator garden for 2021. Look at a piece of a lawn and maybe peel it back in the spring and plant beautiful pollinator plants right in the middle of your garden, why not?

[00:50:53] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:50:53] Fantastic. Well everybody get out there and use those resources. And I guess the last question we [00:51:00] have, and I'm very curious what your answer is going to be, as you've covered so much ground this year. Did any pollinator species sort of like warm your heart the most? It's like, you really love that pollinator?

[00:51:12] Ian Tait: [00:51:12] Well, you know, I had to look at the extremes and I had to look at the smallest and the largest. So the world's smallest bee is Perdita minima. And it is found in the South Western United States. And it's especially petite is the way they call it. Perdita minima are slightly less than two millimeters long. If you put it on a dime you'd have to look hard for it to find it. It's that small. They nest in sandy desert soils, and they look for anybody who is looking out to seek them it [00:52:00] looks for its passing shadow across the ground, rather than the bee itself.

[00:52:03] You know, so small, it can pass through and escape from netting fabric, mesh of ordinary insect nets. If you can imagine a big butterfly net just going down there and scooping it. Well, you know, Perdita minima, just muscles out of that mesh and pops right through it.

[00:52:21] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:52:21] That's a great one. We've got that whole genus, there's all sorts of great bees. And even in British Columbia, I believe you've got a number of species. So it's great, "the fairy bee" it's just this nice, delicate little bee.

[00:52:40] Ian Tait: [00:52:40] Yeah, exactly. And of course you go from one end, the world's smallest to the world's largest. And we had an article on one of our daily reports.

[00:52:53] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:52:53] Oh yeah, the Megachile pluto.

[00:52:56] Ian Tait: [00:52:56] Yeah. Named after [00:53:00] a large bowl of chili and an animated Disney character. Sorry. And Megachile, I was going to say meg- chili and I'm sure I would have been corrected. Anyway, the world's largest bee is Wallace's giant bee and it's probably also the world's most elusive. It was first discovered in 1859 and they couldn't find it again. And it was presumed to be extinct.

[00:53:22] But it's recently been filmed alive in the wild. It grows one and a half inches long with a wingspan of 2.5 inches and has large mandibles that almost look like those of a stag beetle. So, I mean, those are really scary things. And if anybody's a subscriber to National Geographic magazine, the story appears in the October, 2019 issue.

[00:53:45] So, there’s something that's just the smallest thing in the world and then there's the whopper. So it's really quite something. It's just amazing that there are only two, [00:54:00] out of 22,000 plus species of native bees around this world.

[00:54:07] Andony Melathopoulos: [00:54:07] Fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Ian, for being generous with your time. And we are looking forward to keeping tabs on you over there at Feed The Bees and all the great work you're doing in Delta. And thanks for giving us this a real rich experience through an otherwise kind of horrible 2020.

[00:54:25] Ian Tait: [00:54:25] Well, again, thank you for inviting me. I'd like to wish you and your listeners and their families, and a very happy holiday season all the best in 2021. So take care of yourselves and stay safe.


It was hard to keep track of developments in bee health in 2020 because so much else was going on. In this episode we catch-you-up with a guest who wrote a post per day for since January showcasing what was new in bee health.

Ian Tait is the Founder and Co-Chair, Feed The Bees Campaign. Feed the Bees is an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses, organizations and governments to support a healthy and sustainable bee population, and plant gardens to feed pollinators and encourage biodiversity in communities everywhere. "We need you to plant more - and we need more of you to plant - so there's pollen and nectar from March to October!" Feed The Bees is an empowered work team of two people trying to make a difference worldwide.

Links Mentioned:

Book recommendation:

Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees, Lori Weidenhammer


Search engines and search tools.

Favorite Pollinator:

  • Smallest - Perdita minima ... Fairy bee
  • Largest - Megachile pluto ... Wallace's giant bee

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