Latest posts in Queen of Green

How to identify different kinds of bees

April 12, 2017 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to identify different kinds of bees

Can you spy the pollen sacs on the bumble bee? (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

Recently, I had the privilege of attending bee school. Well, not exactly but I met bee lovers/experts—Dr. Elizabeth Elle with Simon Fraser University and Dr. Cameron Cartiere with Border Free Bees.

I learned how to tell a bee from a wasp from a fly, AND defining characteristics of different types of bees.

Here are some tricks and tips to tell bees apart:

Bumble bees

  • Striped abdomen
  • Large, fuzzy body
  • Pollen sacs on thighs
  • Cute, males even have moustaches
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How to tell a bee from a wasp from a fly

April 5, 2017 | 2 comments
Photo: How to tell a bee from a wasp from a fly

The Syrphid fly or hover fly has two wings, large eyes and short antenna. They are good pollinators and the larvae eat pest insects. They do not sting or bite. (Credit: Ian Jacobs via Flickr)

Can you tell the difference between bees, wasps and flies?

I met Lora Morandin with Pollinator Partnership who helped me sort out the buzz from the sting from the pesky.

Why know the difference?

Some people panic and kill beneficial insects. And that's a problem, because:

  • More than half of native bee species in North America are declining and almost one-quarter are at risk of extinction. The western bumblebee (look for the cute white bum), for example, is at risk of extinction.
  • We rely on managed honeybees and the 20,000-plus species of wild bees. They help plants reproduce, create berries and seeds for wildlife, and pollinate about one in three of the food items we eat!  
  • Flies and wasps are part of nature's cleaning crew. Some are pollinators and eat pests. (Some flies and wasps become pests when their numbers increase in urban areas.)
  • Native bees rarely sting people and almost never become "pesky." 
  • Wasps eat aphids!
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Electric car FAQs, part two

March 23, 2017 | 1 comment
Photo: Electric car FAQs, part two

Electrifying transportation is a far better option than continued reliance on fossil fuels. (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

My "Five electric car FAQs" blog asked "What else would you like to know about EVs?"

Steve Kux, David Suzuki Foundation renewable energy and climate solutions policy analyst, answers your questions:

Is an EV's electricity use environmentally destructive?

It depends how your electricity is produced. Burning coal or natural gas releases carbon emissions and contributes to climate change. In November 2016, the federal government announced new regulations to phase out coal power by 2030. Ontario — Canada's most populous province — phased out coal power in 2014. And much of Canadian electricity comes from hydroelectric power. So in many places across Canada, EVs are better for the climate than vehicles that burn fossil fuels.

Won't EVs increase demand for electricity?

Yes. We need to produce more electricity from non-emitting sources to meet future needs without worsening climate change. Electrifying transportation is a far better option than continued reliance on fossil fuels. EVs are three times more efficient at turning stored energy into motion than conventional vehicles and so also waste less energy. Wind and solar are cheaper alternatives with fewer long-term issues than nuclear power.

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How to make all-purpose spray cleaner

March 17, 2017 | 11 comments
Photo: How to make all-purpose spray cleaner

Keep a bottle under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the cleaning closet, etc. (Credit: Shannon Ruth Dionne Photography)

Most of us are exposed to cleaning products and their residues every day.

Some contain harmful chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive disorders, asthma and severe allergies. Symbols, like the skull and crossbones, warn us about acute hazards. Labels include words such as "poison," "corrosive" or "irritant."

But Canada does not require warnings about chronic health and environmental hazards of chemicals in cleaning products.

I can't tell you all ingredients to avoid, because product manufactures aren't required to disclose them. Some manufacturers disclose them voluntarily.

Read labels. Avoid these when shopping for store-bought products:

  • Scented cleaners which may contain synthetic "fragrance" or "parfum"
  • Anti-bacterial cleaners which may contain "triclosan"
  • Coloured cleaners which may contain dyes

Better still, make your own!

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Seven tips to help pollinators

March 9, 2017 | Leave a comment
Photo: Seven tips to help pollinators

Make sure the plants you purchase are pesticide-free. (Credit: Koris Moir)

Native bees and honeybees are still facing decline.

You've already done so much — made a bee bath, started a mason bee house, built a bumblebee house, even kept a messy yard! I quizzed Shelly Candel, director of Bee City Canada, about her top tips to help pollinators.

Tip 1: Choose native plants. Pollinators are best adapted to local, native plants, shrubs and trees. (I suggest joining a native plant society to find the best local plant lists.)

Tip 2: Get rid of your lawn. It's a desert for pollinators (and most wildlife). Transform it into a pollinator paradise! (I suggest getting your lawn off grass, growing sunflowers, and keeping a mud puddle.)

Tip 3: Bee bountiful. Plant big patches of each native plant species for more efficient foraging (it's less distance for bees to travel). This can also boost curb appeal with big patches of colour to attract both pollinators and humans.

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