Pollinating guests welcome at the Summit Lodge 

Pilot project kicks off this year with hopes to educate and inspire others

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALISON TAYLOR - BEE HOMES Victoria Farrand, Lorraine Yeung and Tony Medd get ready for the bees and other pollinators that they hope to attract to the Summit Lodge this summer.
  • photo by alison taylor
  • BEE HOMES Victoria Farrand, Lorraine Yeung and Tony Medd get ready for the bees and other pollinators that they hope to attract to the Summit Lodge this summer.

The Summit Lodge in the heart of Whistler is making room for more guests.

And they're not the paying kind.

Rather, they're the buzzing kind. Bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths and beetles will soon find new flowering homes dotted around the outdoor space at the hotel.

These are the native wild pollinators in Whistler and the Summit Lodge is creating custom homes just for them.

"Bees are the poster child," said Summit's content marketing manager Victoria Farrand of the enduring stories about the loss of bee habitat contributing to the declining bee population. "Their plight is known worldwide. But the pollinators in the Western Coastal Hemlock Zone that we have here in Whistler are very important as an entire demographic, not just the bees themselves."

These are the animals that take the pollen or nectar from flowers creating food — it is estimated that almost 40 per cent of B.C.'s bird species and 37 per cent of its mammals depend on seeds and berries from animal-pollinated wild plants for their diet.

These gardens will be new places for these pollinators to thrive and survive. Bees are one of the most important of the pollinators.

Not to be confused with honeybees, these homes are for the more solitary pollinator bees that pollinate much of the food produced in British Columbia.

The initiative comes with high praise from Elizabeth Elle, professor with Simon Fraser University who runs the Elle Lab and is offering advice along the way.

"From what we know from studying species losses worldwide, the number one reason why species are going extinct is because of habitat loss," said Elle. "And that's true of anything whether we're talking about the polar bear or the Vancouver (Island) marmot or a bee. So they're providing habitat for pollinators and that's a wonderful thing to do."

The project is a pilot project, borne from personal passion for the environment and growing gardens.

The Summit's director of operations Lorraine Yeung has created a smaller bee condo — a small cedar box filled with hollow bamboo sticks, the perfect home for bees, as well as pinecones and sticks for other pollinators. Bee condos will also be a part of the project in addition to the gardens.

"I would love our guests to be inspired to do that themselves," said Yeung. "It's so easy and fun."

The project will be designed to teach the community and guests about Whistler's native wild pollinators and inspire others to do the same.

If all goes well with this first year pilot project, the Summit hopes to share its success with the municipality and encourage it to get on the program of creating new homes for native pollinators.

"That's where we wanted to branch out as a hotel, to not be somewhere for people to just rest their head, but actually be a form of education and inspiration for people coming to Whistler and transform what a hotel can be and should be," said Farrand.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler announced a similar program last week — creating one of 16 bee hotels across Canada to help solitary bees rest and reproduce. There are 12 hives on the roof housing 15,000 bees each — that's about 300,000. By the end of summer there should be around 500,000 bees.

When asked how much the Summit's program costs, managing director Tony Medd said roughly $1,200. He added: "We are taking a building that was built in the '90s and trying to make it green and use creativity without that huge price tag."

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