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Get buzzed about pollination and why bees are important to humans at International Pollinator Week

Get buzzed about pollination and why bees are important to humans at International Pollinator Week

The birds and the bees, the bats and the butterflies all need a little help doing it these days – pollinating that is. So Sabrina Malach, a master in environmental studies student at York, has helped organize several events in Toronto for International Pollinator Week, which will run from June 21 to 27.

The events give people the opportunity to learn about the hundreds of bee species, how they live, eat and pollinate, and why they're important to humans. In a collaborating effort with fellow students, professors, artists and members of the public, Malach has brought International Pollinator Week to Toronto from the United States, where it first started four years ago.

“This is truly a collaborative event that is reaching out from the ivory tower and into the community,” says Malach.

Events range from a photo exhibit and a Pollinators Cabaret at the Gladstone Hotel to a Pollinators Festival at Evergreen Brick Works.

Birds, bees, bats and butterflies are essential in the bid to produce fruit, vegetables, seeds and flowers. "More than 90 crops consumed by humans are pollinated by insects," says Malach. "Globally, pollinators are in decline which is a major threat to food security."

People can help by providing the right kind of habitats for pollinators in the city, such as planting daisies, lavender, mint, asters and sunflowers. "Researchers have found that cities can act as havens for declining pollinator populations if appropriate garden techniques are practised," says Malach. It is estimated that for every three bites of either food or drink a human takes, one of them can be attributed to the work of a pollinator, usually an insect. The making of chocolate depends on pollinators, as do dairy cows, who eat pollinated alfalfa as their major food source. Bee habitats are just one of the topics being presented during International Pollinator Week.

"I am particularly interested in helping to raise awareness around this and to hopefully help inspire urban citizens to be pollinator stewards in their yards and gardens and play a part in enhancing biodiversity and investing in food security in a tangible way," says Malach.

So what’s the buzz? A couple of bee related events are taking place before Pollinator Week. On Saturday, June 5, from 3:30 to 4:15pm, listen to a talk by York Professor Laurence Packer (right), Sarah Peebles and Rob King (MA ’08) regarding the distinct features and challenges of putting on an earlier art installation dealing with the biodiversity of bees. The talk is part of the Subtle Technologies Festival at the Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave., University of Toronto in Toronto. On Sunday, June 6, a hands-on workshop to create a habitat garden that provides appropriate nesting and food for pollinators will take place from 10am to noon at the Kavanah Organic Community Teaching Garden on Lebovic Campus Drive, west of Ilan Ramon Boulevard in Toronto.

Then from Monday, June 21 to Sunday, June 27, Urban Buzz: A Tale of Three Cities, a multimedia exhibit exploring the lives of bees in Toronto, New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, will take place from noon to 5pm in the Art Bar at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W., Toronto. Photographs by Malach, wire bee sculptures by Charmaine Lurch as well as work by Sarah Peebles and Michael Abraham will be on display. On Thursday, June 24, from 6 to 8:30pm, the Pollinators Cabaret will offer an evening of storytelling, poetry, dance, song and visual art in celebration of pollinators in the Gladstone Hotel’s Melody Bar, followed by events from 8:45 to 11pm in the Art Bar.

On Sunday, June 27, from 10am to 5:30pm, International Pollinators Week will draw to a close with the Pollinators Festival, a full-day celebration of pollinators with workshops from a diverse group of educators and a marketplace with local honey, bee houses made by local artists and scientists, books and other goods. The event will take place at Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave. in Toronto.

The following is a list of workshops to take place at the Pollinators Festival:

Explore the Lives of Bumblebees
10 to 11:15am
Presenter: Sheila Colla, a PhD biology candidate at York
Bumblebees are important native pollinators of fruits, vegetables and flowering plants in temperate regions. Colla will discuss the importance of bumblebees and how people can help preserve declining populations.

Pollinator Gardening at Evergreen Brick Works
11:30am to 12:45pm
Join Evergreen and Pollination Week partners as they get their hands dirty at a planting workshop. Learn pollinator-attracting gardening techniques that can be applied in the backyard, balcony or container garden.

Honeybee Hive Life
1 to 2:15pm
Presenter: Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative
Join the Toronto Beekeepers Co-op to take a close-up look at life in the honeybee hive.

Keeping the Bees
2 to 2:30pm
Presenter: York biology and environmental studies Professor Laurence Packer
Learn about the current declining status of bees and what you can do to help save them. Packer will discuss topics from his latest book Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them (HarperCollins, 2010).
Informational tables will be set up by local organizations, artists and architects, and books and local honey will be on sale.

A Pollinator Monitoring Workshop
2:30 to 4:15pm
Presenters: Maria Kasstan & Dave and Norma Barr
Learn about pollinator decline and its potential threat to food security. Learn to recognize and support local pollinators and take part in a hands-on, citizen science pollinator-monitoring project.

The Movement of Bees
4:30 to 5:30pm
Presenters: Naomi Tessler & York PhD student Zita Nyarady
A movement and sound based workshop that brings community together through enacting the movement and sounds of the bee community.

For more information, contact Sabrina Malach at

The entry fee for the Pollinator Festival at Evergreen Brick Works is a $5 donation or pay what you can. All ages are welcome, but space is limited. To RSVP for by-donation workshops or register for paid workshops, e-mail

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.