Q&A Blog | World Bee Day
Check out this World Bee Day Q&A blog with Shelly Candel, the founder of Bee City Canada, a team of passionate and driven experts aiming to help Canadians develop long lasting connections with pollinators and their vital role in our planet’s health!
In 2021, BeeCity launched a virtual learning system offering students in JK to Grade 6 to look into the world of bees. What inspired you to create this learning system?
I found out early when I was first asked to speak to a school back in 2016 that the subject of pollinators and pollination was poorly understood by teachers and by most adults. So, this critical subject was being ignored in the school curriculum. Students are not taught about the relationships that exist in nature nor the beauty and complexity and importance of every living creature,nor, what our responsibility is as human beings to care for all the creatures around us. I think that if this was taught to children in every grade over the last 50 years we would be a healthier and happier society with fewer problems. We have been taught to look at nature as a resource to use and exploit, not the source of our life that needs to be protected.
Covid was the catalyst for putting together an on-line presentation and the dream I had back in 2016 of creating a Bee City Ambassador program finally got started in September of 2021.
Ambassadors apply for this position, and we currently have 2 high school students, 7 undergraduates, and 2 post graduate students. I created a presentation after experimenting with ideas and trying them out on students from JK-6 for over a year. The goal of the presentation is to touch each student in some way so that we can turn their fear of bees into love. We have had great success with this presentation as it has appropriate aged jokes, songs, dances, stories, interesting videos and enough information to keep students engaged without overwhelming them with too many facts. The language is simple enough for children to understand and in 30 minutes a child from K-6 is clear on who are the pollinators, what is pollination, pollen, nectar and why pollinators are so important. This presentation was given to the new ambassadors and each had some time to practice and find ways to make it their own. We have a great on-line booking system where each teacher who books this free virtual presentation matches to a Bee City Ambassador. Ambassadors select days and times that are convenient for their schedule which works great for high school and university students. We pay the Ambassadors for each of their presentations. We meet about once in 3 weeks and collectively learn more by inviting experts to our meetings and discuss ways to improve upon the presentations. Many of the Ambassadors are working on creating a brand new presentation on different topics that they care about, such as bats, honey bees, growing a vegetable garden, sharks, etc. Eventually I would like to see the number of Ambassadors grow and the number of different talks we offer grow as well. We expect to reach almost 10,000 students from almost every province in Canada by the end of the school year.
We send out evaluations to every teacher after the presentation to get much needed feedback.
What I try to remind myself is that I am not only educating the student, but I am also educating the teacher as well, so that he/she/they can continue to spread the bee love, year after year.
What advice would you give the youth who want to follow a similar path as you?
Dream big and don’t stop dreaming of a better future. If you know that your idea will create a better future for humanity and for all living things then follow your path. You may find that others will try and discourage you so perhaps leave these people behind and find those that believe in what you are doing. You know that something is successful when others believe in what you are doing.
Your research interest is mainly raising awareness to help people better understand the significance of pollinators and their importance to the health of the planet. What essential qualities are needed to excel in the field like this?
During your countless hours and experience of researching pollinators, can you recall an experience that you’ll never forget?
When I started out I was in great reverence of the many dedicated academics in their fields of pollinator studies. I realized after a few years of going to many conferences and listening to many academics talk about their published papers that many researchers were more interested in doing more research than being advocates to change a system that is broken and that is doing harm to the pollinators. A lot of research that is going on at Universities is being sponsored by big corporations and this is doing a lot of harm to the integrity of many research papers.
Across your years of commitment with the BeeCity organization along with the extensive research you have done, what is a challenging encounter you’ve faced that you wish people following a similar path should know beforehand?
The challenge that I face most often is that it is very difficult to get adults to change their unconscious way of thinking. For example, look at how people are still so attached to their green, weedless lawn that uses tremendous amounts of water and is a desert for the pollinators…it’s insane! Children on the other hand are very open to new ideas and perceptions. They care about the life of every creature and want to cause them no harm. Feel free to send your applications into the Bee City Ambassador program and help make a positive difference on this planet and if I can be of any help or assistance on your own journey please contact me by phone or by email.
How can the youth and general public begin to make efforts to preserve and protect the bee populations around the world?
Right now individual efforts are having a very limited impact. We have all the research papers to show the harmful impacts that all pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, miticides) are having around the globe, yet there is no policy anywhere to change the status quo. We need a different tactic and I believe the global movement that is happening now called SAVESOIL.ORG aka consciousplanet.org is what we all need to stand behind and support. Soil in every country around the world is degraded to a point where every second an acre of soil is turning to desert. If we do nothing in 30 years or so our soil is heading for extinction. We need to contact all of our government representatives, including municipal, provincial and federal governments to ask that a national policy be created to improve soil health on managed farm land across Canada that will increase the organic content to a minimum of 3-6%. We need to offer incentives to our farmers to accomplish this, and offer them carbon credits when the target of 3% or higher is met. Countries around the world are joining this movement and we want Canada to stand amongst these nations. The foundation of life on the planet is soil. Soil is alive with trillions of microorganisms and when this complex system is working well it offers every mineral and nutrient the plant needs to produce high quality pollen and nectar for the pollinators and high quality, nutrient dense food for humans. The inputs of fertilizers and pesticides and tilling are killing life in the soil and farmers need incentives to get off the roller coaster. All the scientific research is there and there are many farmers who have started improving life in the soil by using many species of cover crops, not tilling, learning how to successfully graze animals to improve soil health, and other local methods and are seeing tremendous benefits. Within 3-5 years they are seeing increased profits, healthier animals, more beneficial insects on their farms, healthier plants and happier humans. If we do this now…within 5-10 years there will be a huge impact on our climate as the carbon and water cycle will once again be in balance reducing and eventually eliminating the devastation we see from floods and droughts, Carbon will once again be sequestered by the microorganisms in the soil. This is our only hope at the moment for increasing the biodiversity of microorganisms in the soil, increasing the biodiversity of the plants, insects, birds and animals. There is a lot that can be learned on the web site savesoil.org Other important scientists to listen to are Dr. Walter Jehne (soil scientist, climatologist) from Australia, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren (entomologist/agronomist), Ray Archuleta (soil scientist), Dr. Elaine Ingham (soil scientist) and so many more.