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How sweet it is! Councillor wants Toronto to become Canada's first Bee City

It’s a honey of an idea: City councillor Michelle Berardinetti wants Toronto to become the first Bee City in Canada.

Berardinetti made the proposal to the Parks and Environment Committee earlier this month. She argued that bees’ pollination efforts are good for the environment.

“Pollinators are vital to a healthy and resilient ecosystem,” the proposal reads.”The conservation of pollinators is critical to the sustainability of Toronto‘s natural areas and urban gardens”

Berardinetti notes that Toronto was a leader in banning the use of pesticides in 2003, which helped protect the health of bees in the city.

“Toronto has the opportunity to lead by example and become the first Canadian city to obtain Bee City certification,” the proposal continues. “By becoming a certified Bee City, Toronto will be officially recognized as a community that supports healthy pollinator populations.”

Berardinetti proposes that once the plan is passed the city celebrate its new designation annually with a proclamation and public awareness raising activities.

Toronto is currently home to over 300 species of bees and a number of beekeeping groups including Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative and Toronto Bee Rescue.

City staff is currently working towards preparing a draft Pollinator Protection Strategy for the City of Toronto. A staff report and draft strategy will be presented to the Parks and Environment Committee later this year.

Concerns have been raised in recent years over the decreasing bee population and the global repercussions.

On Friday, a United Nations scientific mega-report warned that many species of wild bees, as well as butterflies and other critters that pollinate plants, are shrinking toward extinction.

The 20,000 or so species of pollinators are key to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of crops each year — from fruits and vegetables to coffee and chocolate. Yet, two out of five species of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are on the path toward extinction, said the first-of-its-kind report.

“We are in a period of decline and there are going to be increasing consequences,” said report lead author Simon Potts, director of the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading in England.

And it’s not just honeybees. In some aspects they’re doing better than many of their wild counterparts, like the bumblebee, despite dramatic long-term declines in the United States and a mysterious disorder that has waned.

In December, figures from Statistics Canada showed that honey production across the country had hit its highest level in nine years. Canadian beekeepers were producing 95.3 million pounds of honey in 2015, an increase of 11.4 per cent from the previous year.

Canada exports up to 70 per cent of its production, mainly to the U.S.