Biology Prof. Laurence Packer talks about the importance of bees in Toronto

Ever wonder which species of bee is most likely to buzz around a Toronto garden on a morning in early summer? Or why it seems that a certain type of bee prefers a sage plant to a flowering shrub?

York biology Professor Laurence Packer, an expert on bees, will join environmentalist David Suzuki and gardening guru Marjorie Harris at "Wild Things With Wings: A Celebration Of Native Pollinators in the City", to answer some of those questions and to raise awareness about the importance of pollination.

The event, hosted by CBC Radio’s Bob McDonald of "Quirks and Quarks" and featuring songs by Jason Collett, takes place on Saturday, May 3, from 4:30 to 6:30pm (doors open at 3:30pm) at the Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., Toronto.

"One-third of the food we eat depends upon the activities of pollinators," says Packer, so it is important to encourage diversity among them. To help members of the public identify types of bees and other pollinators, Packer has written a pocket-sized A Guide to Toronto’s Pollinators, with most images by York alumnus Amro Zayed (BSc ’01, PhD ’06), that will be launched at the event with a companion publication, Toronto Plant Guide for Attracting Pollinators, by Harris.

Packer’s guide is meant to raise awareness about the value of plant and wildlife diversity in the Toronto area and introduces readers to the city’s pollinator populations, which aid in food production and flowering plant reproduction. There are five major families of bees that are busying pollinating Ontario, including the honey bee, bumble bee and carpenter bee. There are pictures and descriptions of the various bees, along with a couple of butterflies. to make spotting them easy.

Bees have fascinated Packer since he was a child. After studying zoology at the University of Oxford, he went on to complete a PhD in bee behaviour at the University of Toronto. He worked for the World Wildlife Fund on endangered butterflies before landing at York where he developed a large lab of students studying bee biology. His lab contains almost 100,000 specimens and growing.

"Wild Things With Wings: A Celebration Of Native Pollinators in the City" will also feature a series of workshops, looking at native plants, urban naturalization, ecosystem restoration and native bees along with a guest appearance from Suzuki. The workshops are pay-what-you-can and run from 10am to 3pm, with registration starting at 9:15am at the Evergreen Brick Works, 550 Bayview Ave., Toronto.

The event is organized by the David Suzuki Foundation, Evergreen, Foodshare and Seeds of Diversity. Tickets are $25, $20 for students (plus service charges) and can be purchased through the Danforth Music Hall or Ticketmaster.

For more information, visit the David Suzuki Foundation Web site.