Bee advocates’ project continues strong growth

Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha dropped by on this bee-utiful Sunday afternoon to wish Jade Cress and Lauren Goddard well on their school-project-turned-advocacy campaign. Several patrons made a bee-line for the cupcakes they had on offer. photo by Warren Schlote

LITTLE CURRENT – There was certainly a buzz at Three Cows and a Cone this past weekend as young bee advocates Lauren Goddard and Jade Cress celebrated the official opening of their bee garden with special guest Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha.

“Our school project is going to finish on Wednesday (June 12),” said Lauren. “Besides the bee garden, we’ve also put up another display at the (Little Current) library (since our last update).”

“After the school project is done we’re going to focus more on gardens,” added Jade. “We started growing the plants for this garden in greenhouses at our own homes.”

The girls’ project is known as the Save the Bees Manitoulin Wild Flower Challenge, something originally conceived as a passion project during their Grade 12 English class that has grown into a broader community movement.

The challenge encourages people to plant native wildflower species around Manitoulin to help support bee populations. Lauren and Jade are each budding gardeners and strong supporters of bees, insects whose numbers have been steadily declining in recent years.

Both work at Three Cows and a Cone in Little Current and expressed their interest in converting one of the building’s gardens into a ‘bee garden,’ one that hosts a number of native species that bees rely upon as well as a small dish full of water and marbles that serves as a bee bath.

Bee garden

The flora in the garden includes gloriosa daisies, borages, alyssums, lavender, delphinium, bee balm, Rosie O’Days and petunias.

These species are said to attract bees and, according to owner Phil Blake, they have already spotted bees making full use of the garden.

“It’s amazing. You put it there and they’ll come,” he said, adding that the importance of the initiative goes far beyond his eatery.

“It’s not about Three Cows, it’s about them and the bees. The girls have done a great job; it’s wonderful that they’re doing this type of thing. Bees support a lot of stuff that we don’t hear about,” said Mr. Blake.

The bees were not the only thing drawn to the garden at the Sunday afternoon event—Mr. Mantha dropped by to wish the girls well and drum up some excitement for the movement, signing the guestbook as the #BeeWhisperer.

“Our party put a motion forward a few weeks ago declaring a climate crisis. We’re seeing high winds, floods and 50- or 100-year storms occurring frequently,” he said.

Mr. Mantha said he felt encouraged by seeing young people taking firm stances on environmental issues to make them a higher priority than ever before.

“Students are no longer reaching out for permission to take care of the environment. They’re going into action,” he said. “They’re not going to accept the status quo anymore; they’re going to make sure the environment is here and that they’re able to enjoy it with their children.”

Three Cows manager Carrie Moore spent several hours making 100 cupcakes that the girls gave out at the event. The gesture was well-received by many passers-by on their way home from a weekend away on the Island.

“I think it’s real important that we save the bees,” said Laurie Lee, a Barrie resident with a property on Lake Manitou, who said the event brightened her day. “Everyone should get on board with bee-friendly flowers; I would come to Manitoulin just for the honey!”

Carolyn Hatton and Clarissa Elliott were on their way back to Sudbury in their black-and-yellow car, complete with a bumper sticker urging readers to ‘bee’ kind.

“It’s great that a small, local town is taking this initiative on an important topic,” said Ms. Hatton.

Even Jade and Lauren’s Grade 12 English teacher Erin Stringer—who will be marking them on this project after it concludes—stopped by for a cupcake. She had run the passion project assignment for three years at Espanola High School and has now brought it to Manitoulin Secondary School for its first year.

“It’s always the best work of the year,” she said. “When they care about what they’re doing, it changes the work they’re willing to put in and it becomes much more valuable.”

Lauren and Jade have distributed more than 200 brochures with wildflower seeds through partnerships with area businesses and organizations. They encourage people looking for more information on their initiative to drop by the bee garden at Three Cows and a Cone or visit their social media page at facebook.com/SaveTheBeesManitoulin.