Bee army sets out to transform Coquitlam gardens

Teens will be out promoting pollinating gardens this fall and next spring

Flush from the success of building bee-friendly gardens in Vancouver, a group of Tri-City youth are hoping to make the Tri-Cities a better place for pollinators.

This month, young people will be knocking on doors in Coquitlam and Port Moody to offer support, seeds, knowledge and even practical help in creating pollinating gardens in side yards, unused flower beds and chafer-infested lawns.

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Representatives from The Pollinator Project met with The Tri-City News last week to share their passion for bringing bees back from the brink of extinction. They hope that by encouraging more organic, bee-friendly gardens the pollinators will return in greater numbers.

Globally pollinators such as bumblebees, orchard bees and wild bees are dying because of parasites and pesticides and habitat destruction, the youth say.

By encouraging homeowners to plant diverse species that are attractive to bees, the group hopes to reverse the situation. “We want to reintegrate pollinator habitat into the urban space,” explained Jason Liao, one of the group’s organizers, who is a Grade 11 student at Coquitlam’s Gleneagle secondary.

The group is also working with Earth Safe Canada to promote the use of organic gardening and is fundraising for the project through school donut sales and other money-raising efforts.

Since the group started last year, more than 130 students have joined or formed Pollinator Project clubs at their school in School District 43.

And it is this small army of pro-pollinators who will be visiting homes this winter and next spring.

The group also started three pollinating gardens at daycares on the UBC campus and has developed a website (thepollinatorproject.info) to provide more information and encourage more people to get involved.

Patrick Zhao, a Grade 12 student at Pinetree secondary and one of the group’s founders, said he feels a sense of success already but wants to do more to prevent pollinators from going into decline. “When I’m out there with the guys, it’s not work. And If I’m helping out the community it’s a great thing.”

Yahya Khalil, who is the president of his club at Gleneagle secondary, said his experience living in desert countries, such as Dubai and Libya has inspired him to want to do more to protect the environment in lush B.C. “If you look at how drastically they [the bees] are declining, it’s actually scary,” Khalil said. “We’re motivated by fear.”

Liao said he is also inspired by how young people want to get involved in saving the bees and hopes more clubs get started at SD43 schools. “Anyone who is interested in having a natural garden or who has leadership experience, we welcome. We need new executive in our clubs and we offer volunteer hours as well.”

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