MSS students start challenge to help save bee populations

Jade Cress, left, and Lauren Goddard are seeking Manitoulin’s help to pick up free wildflower seeds and plant them in their gardens to support for bees of all kinds.

LITTLE CURRENT – Grade 12 Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) students Lauren Goddard and Jade Cress are fighting hard to save bees, one flower at a time, and their support is growing.

The two have recently launched the Save the Bees Manitoulin Wild Flower Challenge, an idea that began as a school project but has grown to become a larger community movement.

“We both decided to team up because we really like gardening—we both keep gardens in the summer—and we decided to get inspiration from that to use our love of gardening to save the bees,” said Lauren.

The project advocates for planting native wildflowers around Manitoulin to support bee populations which depend on the flowers to survive.

Lauren said the project started with a hyper-local focus on the impacts on Manitoulin and its farming economy. She said concerns about world bee populations are common, but people often do not realize the local impacts of losing healthy bees.

“We tried to base it on the kind of crops bees pollinate here, to make it closer to home,” she said. “The population matters here, too.”

Jade said the project began by researching the impacts of bees on Manitoulin.

“We had tons of ideas but were not sure what we could do. All of a sudden, things started to happen. Once we put our Facebook page out, people had a way to reach us and it got way bigger than what we thought we would do,” said Jade.

“Initially our plan was just to plant a garden and teach a lesson to elementary school students as community outreach,” added Lauren.

Once more people began to hear about the initiative, local businesses and organizations added their support. In the Little Current area, the town office, The Island Jar and RONA all offered some space at their front counters to host informative brochures the duo had compiled. 

The Island Jar and RONA also have small packets of mixed wildflower seeds that people can take home and plant in their own yards. The Little Current Public Library has expressed an interest in supporting the project. 

“One of the parts of the school project is to have measurable success. I think for us, just having the feedback that we’re getting right now on our Facebook page is measurable. The more people that see the posts, like, share and comment, the more we can say we’ve reached somebody,” said Lauren.

“And even if they don’t plant the flowers, we’re still educating somebody on our topic—that’s still a win,” Jade added.

Those who choose to plant flowers are eligible to enter the Manitoulin Wild Flower Challenge for the chance to win a Save the Bees Manitoulin t-shirt. Growers simply take a photo of themselves in the planting phase and send it to the Facebook page to enter.

Jade and Lauren are taking part in growing wildflowers themselves. Both work at Three Cows and a Cone and their managers have offered them the opportunity to plan, budget and execute a new garden. 

They will include signage that indicates it is a special bee garden and have separate brochures about the species there to help inform visitors.

As the weather continues to warm, the two will continue planting their own gardens and those at work. For those who miss out on the limited supply of free seeds in Little Current, each household can request one free packet of wildflower seeds from BeesMatter.ca.

“I hope people will grab our brochures. We put a lot of time into them and they have lots of different information about planting your own garden. Look at our Facebook page, too; we’re posting lots of facts about local species and how to save the bees on a smaller scale. You can actually do it,” said Jade.

“If everyone who owns a garden could plant a few wildflowers, it would make a difference. The issue is closer to home than you might think. There’s lots of people sustained off crops here that are only sustained through pollination,” added Lauren.

For more information about the challenge and to send in a planting photo for the contest, visit facebook.com/

SaveTheBeesManitoulin. Jade and Lauren will draw a winner on June 5.