McBride's Organic Farm

McBride’s Organic Farm

Last week, we had the pleasure of surveying McBride’s Organic Farm just north of Barrie While it seemed unassuming at first, within just 20 minutes we realized we had stumbled upon one of the best bumblebee habitats we had ever seen. We found a total of eight species in one hour including uncommon species such as Yellow-banded Bumblebee, the American Bumblebee and the Boreal Bumblebee. All were foraging from a variety of species (e.g. clovers, vetches, campion, thistles, goldenrod) within and around an organic carrot field.  For comparison, at most of our sites, we find about 4-6 species in a whole day of searching. It made us happy to see such species diversity and to know that these uncommon species were not being exposed to any pesticides while feeding.

A Yellow-banded Bumblebee queen nectar-robbing a Bladder Campion Plant.  This species has a very short tongue and can't access nectar from long-tubed flowers the typical way.  Instead they pierce the bottom of the flower to suck up the nectar.

A yellow-banded bumblebee queen nectar-robbing a Bbladder campion plant. This species has a very short tongue and can’t access nectar from long-tubed flowers the typical way. Instead they pierce the bottom of the flower to suck up the nectar.

A quick look around the property made us wonder about the farming practices could be encouraging such diversity.  In addition to being completely pesticide-free, the farm had numerous woodpiles scattered around which were providing nesting habitat to a variety of species.  Their farm produces numerous crops all throughout the year, which meant recently harvested fields and adjacent land were full of a variety of flowering plants including weeds which were allowed to bloom– providing a myriad of food choices throughout the spring, summer and fall.

The delicious organic heirloom tomatoes and carrots we purchased from them for lunch was the cherry on top of a pretty amazing  field day.  Please support these bee-friendly farmers by visiting them at the local Orillia and Barrie Farmer’s markets!

Sheila Colla, Bumblebee Project Leader