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Toronto to become Canada's first official 'Bee City'

15 American cities have already been certified by Bee City U.S.A. but the initiative is only starting to pollinate in Canada

An official designation of Toronto as the Bee City would be a celebration of the city's pollinator population and ongoing efforts to preserve its habitat.

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An official designation of Toronto as the Bee City would be a celebration of the city's pollinator population and ongoing efforts to preserve its habitat.

T.O. Bee or not T.O. Bee? That’s the question.

And members of the city’s parks and environment committee believe they have the answer.

With approval from city council and a successful application to Bee City Canada, Toronto could officially become the first Canadian Bee City by end of March.

It’s all about increasing the city’s work in protecting pollinators and growing the population, said Michelle Berardinetti, the councillor who’s got everyone buzzing about the idea.

“An added designation is about public education and community involvement,” she said. “Our city is already doing a lot in bee farming and protection, and we need to serve as a leading example to the rest of Canada.”

Toronto is home to more than 300 species of bees and hundreds of other pollinators, which makes it one of the country’s most diverse areas when it comes to pollination.

Programs to support pollination already exist in places such as the Evergreen Brick Works, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat and High Park’s Black Oak Savannah. Bees are also being raised in hives on the roofs of several downtown buildings, including the Royal York.

An official Bee City certification is the next logical step in showing the city’s commitment and will offer a chance for broader collaboration, Berardinetti said.

City staff is working on a report that will be tabled to council early next month. Assuming it’s approved, the city’s application can make a bee line to the appropriate authorities.

Bee City Canada is an offshoot of Bee City U.S.A., an initiative encouraging city leaders to celebrate everything bees contribute to the world. With the motto “making the world safer for pollinators one city at a time,” the American enterprise has bestowed the Bee City title to 15 cities and two university campuses.

Berardinetti, herself a bee and butterfly gardener, said the importance of bees can’t be overstated.

“We make billions of dollars off their work, but they’re not exactly paid for it,” she said, adding the least people could do is to ensure their habitat is properly protected. “If we didn’t have bees, there are so many fruits and vegetables that actually wouldn’t exist.”