British Columbia

Vancouver Island University is swarming with bees — and that's a good thing

Students and staff at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island University are planting gardens to encourage bees and other pollinators to hang out on campus.

Nanaimo, B.C., campus recognized for its commitment to protect pollinators

A bumblebee on a rhododendron at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo. ( Vancouver Island University)

Nanaimo's Vancouver Island University (VIU) can now call itself a "bee campus."

That's a designation awarded by Bee City Canada, a non-profit organization that asks cities and schools to commit to protecting pollinators including bees, birds and bats.

At VIU, it all started with Kirby Delaney, then a student in the school's master of community planning program. She was passionate about her beekeeping hobby and decided to make it the basis of her master's thesis. She researched how communities can plan to better accommodate pollinators that are integral to plant reproduction as they carry pollen from plant to plant. 

"One of the biggest threats to native insects in general, bees in particular, is loss of habitat," says Delaney. "And unfortunately, we were planning to build a lot of our communities on what was once perfect meadowland."  

She says that cities — and campuses — can combat that loss of habitat by putting gardens anywhere there's space: beside sidewalks, in parks and along boulevards. 

Bringing a thesis to life 

"When I finished writing my thesis," says Delaney, "the last thing I wanted to do was to put it on a shelf and never look at it again."

So she used it to come up with a land-use plan for VIU — a plan that earned the "bee campus" designation.

"It was actually the best application that I read," says Shelly Candel, director of Bee City Canada. 

Bee City Canada's Shelly Candel, left, presents the Bee Campus designation to Vancouver Island University President Deb Saucier. ( Vancouver Island University)

What made it even better, she says, is that the whole campus became involved — from administrators at the top, to students at the ground level. 

Christopher Brown, an education student, agrees. He runs the community garden which was revitalized as part of the bee campus plan. 

"I really value Vancouver Island University," he says. "Their willingness to embrace this kind of initiative shows that ...  there's a lot of hope. We're hoping to take this small space, and scale it up, to other places on campus." 

Margot Thomaidis is one of the students behind the community garden at VIU. ( Vancouver Island University)

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