It’s Time to Talk About Bugs

White-lined sphinx moth from Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that insects take up the most space on the taxonomic web of life? Did you know that about 75% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects? You might have also heard that insect biodiversity is on the decline. Sadly, what you may have hear is right. In a paper published in the Journal ‘Biological Conservation’lead authors Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G.Wyckhuys state “almost half of insect species are rapidly declining and a third are being threatened with extinction”.

Can you imagine a world without insects? To some it may sound like a dream come true but insects are integral to the functioning of our world! From the food we eat to the waste we excrete, we have insects to thanks (we would literally be swimming in detritus if not for decomposers!). Tune into this episode where we show these important little creatures some well-deserved attention!

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Checking out bugs with Peter Heule: Q&A with the Royal Alberta Museum’s live animal supervisor

Terra Informer Olivia deBourcier interviewed Peter Heule, a live animals supervisor at the Royal Alberta Museum, about bugs. Originally aired on The Gateway Presents, we’ll hear about butterfly migration, what animal science is all about, how kids understand bugs better than grown ups think, and what a wild world there is left to discover!

The Good News: The Big Bee!

In light of the bad news about insect populations, there is hope! Recently, the world’s BIGGEST BEE, thought extinct for 38 years, has been found alive on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas. As long as an adult thumb, with jaws like a stag beetle and four times larger than a honeybee this dinosaur of a bee continues to be threatened, particularly by deforestation for agriculture, but the very fact that it persists suggests that extinction is not inevitable! Hannah Cunningham explains in this ecobabble the ways that we can all help pollinators keep on keeping on!

From planning what you plant, building bee hotels (a simple DIY bee hotel) to reducing your use of pesticides, there are many ways you can make your world more pollinator friendly

Related Links

National Geographic

The Guardian

Tiny Organisms, Big Impacts! Moss and Bees


This week’s episode features two stories about itty bitty organisms packing a big environmental punch. Learn about mosses with Tasmia Nishat and from the archives, get the scoop on urban beekeeping in Edmonton with Chris Chang-Yen Phillips.

Download episode here.

Urban Beekeeping

There are plenty of frontiers in urban agriculture: community gardens, backyard chickens—beekeeping might be the one that makes neighbours and politicians the most nervous. But after years of debate and a pilot project eased us into the idea, Edmonton has finally opened the doors to backyard beekeeping.

Edmonton’s City Council changed its bylaws in April 2015 to allow residents to get their own licensed beehive. So what does it look like (and sound like) to get a delivery of thousands of bees?

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips joined Kyla Tichkowsky, Steph Ripley and Lisa Lumley to find out.

Download Program Log here.

Photo credit to Mike Phobos

Catastrophes and Cures

This week on Terra Informa, we’re bouncing across Canada and around the world. We’re taking a trip across Canada with WWOOFer David Laing to learn about his experiences volunteering on organic farms. We’re also heading over to Iran to learn about the slow death of the vital Lake Urmia and what it means for the region. Also, Dr. Jessamyn Manson of the University of Alberta sheds some light on why bee populations face such an intense population decline.

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Globally, bees have been facing a massive dieoff. Scientists haven’t yet been able to pin down the exact cause.

WWOOFing in Canada

As some viewers may recall, Terra Informa’s Miro Radovic sat down with a young Canadian who WWOOFed in Denmark. To gain further insight into opportunities closer to home he sat down with another WWOOFer in Canada, David Laing.
The Buzz About the Bees

The good news is people are starting to pay attention to the declining bee populations. The bad news is that the severe decline of these essential pollinators is a dynamic issues that researchers are still trying to untangle.  The buzz is that pesticides might play a large role in the bee death seen around the world in the past few years.  Terra Informa’s Jessica Kozlowski speaks with Dr. Jessamyn Manson, a professor of Ecology at the University of Alberta educated in bumblebees, pollinator-plant interactions, and nectar chemistry.  Dr. Manson gives her professional opinion on just what factors could be behind the declining bee populations.  Also, she gives helpful insight into the issue of pesticide bans.  No situation is without hope though, as Dr. Manson gives many helpful tips for Canadians on how they can assist their local bee populations to be healthy and happy.

Iran’s Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia is one of the largest salt lakes in the world. Located in Iran, between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan, it is a breeding ground for flamingos and one of the largest habitats of a salt-water shrimp. Lake Urmia is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, and a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It plays a crucial role in the economic, ecological and social health of the region. Currently, the lake is in danger of drying up. More than just an environmental problem, the deterioration of the lake could impact the 13 million inhabitants of the region. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon talks to some members of Azerbaijanji communities in Edmonton and Vancouver to hear their concerns.

More on this story: Campaign to Save Lake UrmiaLake Urmia appeal by the Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)

What’s Happening

The Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton is organising their Environment Week Celebration. They’re hosting an event on Saturday, June 1st between noon and 4pm, to help people learn how to lessen their impact on the environment. This would be a great learning experience as fun activity for kids and adults alike! You can purchase tickets online at or at the door.

More information on where they are located and other events taking place at the Muttart, visit

Cities that develop food and urban agriculture policies also establish food councils. Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Kamloops and Calgary are good Canadian examples. This year, Edmonton will make that list too! The Edmonton Food Council’s role as a committee of the Administration is to, “advise on matters of food and urban agriculture and to take an active role in supporting the implementation of the Strategy.” Providing advice, undertaking research and evaluation, coordination, engagement and education will be the core jobs on the Edmonton Food Council. Once established, meetings are expected to be held monthly and will be open to the public. All are welcome to attend.

To nominate someone or yourself as a potential member of the Edmonton Food Council, please review the terms of reference, complete the nomination form and submit it to by June 10, 2013 and for more information, visit

The Canada Green Building Council’s National Conference and Expo is taking place in Vancouver from June 4-6. As Canada’s largest green building event each year, the CaGBC National Conference boasts expert content and speakers, along with a 100+ booth expo floor and networking events and attracting delegates from across the building industry and the country.

This year’s theme is Building Lasting Change, focusing on how buildings and communities should be approached and planned with sustainable longevity. This theme will be addressed through a strong line-up of over 90 expert speakers, with sessions organized into five comprehensive streams, as well as a Master Speaker Series. In addition to main conference sessions, participants can also attend one of five pre-Conference mobile workshops  on June 4, which will highlight some of Vancouver’s most inspiring sustainable sites.

To learn more about the expo, visit

Doha Climate Talks, Zombees, and Ronald Wright

This week, Terra Informa is at the centre of some big questions. How can Canadian youth help push this year’s UN climate talks in Doha? Has our civilization laid a progress trap for itself? And what’s up with those possessed honeybees?

Doha 2012 Climate Talk sign

The UN climate talks continue in Doha from November 26 – December 7, 2012. (Photo credit:

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Canadian Youth Head to UN Climate Talks in Doha

The Canadian Youth Delegation is the voice of the Canadian youth climate movement at international climate conferences. Since 2005, Canadian youth have been present at every major meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Right now, the Canadian Youth Delegation is in Doha, Qatar for the COP 18. Members of the delegation shared their podcast with Terra Informa. The excerpt featured in this week’s show was produced by Nadia Kanji, in the lead-up to the COP18. She talks to Quebec student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, and reflects on the effectiveness of international climate conferences. Follow the Canadian Youth
Delegation on twitter at @CYD_DJC or go to the Canadian Youth Delegation blog.

More information on this storyCanadian Youth DelegationCOP 18, Al Jazeera

ZomBee Watch: Flight of the Living Dead

We all know that zombies aren’t real, right? Well, that may be true…for the most part. Most of us can sleep well at night knowing that zombie attacks and infection are the stuff of Hollywood horror fiction. But for the poor honeybee, zombification has become a very real, very deadly nightmare, and it’s calling some scientists to take action. Zombie honey bees—or ZomBees—are the latest threat to already troubled hives all across North America. To learn more, we contacted Dr. John Hafernik, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University who’s also the director of ZomBee Watch, a citizen science project that’s trying to track this strange phenomenon. From San Francisco, California, listen to Hamdi Issawi’s conversation with Dr. Hafernik on “the flight of the living dead.” If you’d like to learn more about ZomBees or become a citizen scientist and contribute your own findings, visit ZomBee Watch.

More information on this storyZomBee WatchIssaquah PressThe Bottom Line

Ronald Wright on the Traps of Progress

On November Twenty Third, The Parkland Institute kicked off its sixteenth fall conference in Edmonton, Alberta. The theme was Petro, Power and Politics, and the opening keynote was delivered by Canadian anthropologist and novelist Ronald Wright. Wright is best known delivering a CBC Massey Lecture which he called A Short History of Progress. For Friday’s lecture, Wright drew on this earlier work to discuss our modern environmental crisis, including climate change and loss of biodiversity. To chart our possible future, Wright looks back to examine the collapse of civilisations all across the world. It’s depressing business, and more than one audience member asked the obvious question: is there any hope at all?

As Wright calls it, a little progress is good, but too much progress can be deadly. Over the past few centuries, the whole world has seen so much progress that it boggles the mind. Have we seen too much? Too fast? Progress of the right or the wrong kind? To start to understand Wright’s answer, we asked Terra Informer Trevor Chow-Fraser to walk through the beginnings of the current progress trap humanity—and the planet—are currently struggling to escape.

More information on this story: Ronald Wright’s website, Parkland Institute Conference 2012