Figure 1: Spread the Word, Save the Bees
This is more of a personal post as my dad was a beekeeper in his thirties and we still have his hive in our garden to this day. When he reminisces about his beekeeping days, he enthusiastically talks about its many benefits, such as the flowers his garden being brighter, as well as the taste of raw honey being better than any shop bought stuff. The decline of bee populations is a topic close to his heart so I’m hopefully going to motivate you to do something about it.Figure 2: Dad’s bee hive that has come to rest in our garden (Wilcox, 2015)
This fascinating TedTalk by Marla Spivak highlights the vital importance of bees as well as why their numbers are fading.
Video 1: Why Bees are disappearing, by Marla Spivak, 2013
She begins by stating that more than 1/3 of the worlds crop populations is dependent on bee pollination. Globally, there is a 300% increase in crop production needing bee pollination. In England alone, bee numbers have fallen by more than half over the past 20 years. Clearly this isn’t sustainable; how are we going to support an expanding food system that relies on bees while their populations decline every year?
Figure 3: What a supermarket would look like in a world without bees (Imgur, 2015)
The solution is simple.
- Spring – Lilacs, lavender, sage, and wisteria
- Summer – Mint, tomatoes, pumpkins, oregano, rosemary, poppies,
- Autumn – Fuschia, sunflower, verbena,
Plant them in your gardens, window sills, along roadsides, even campaign to have them planted in your public parks. Make the landscape burst full of flowers again.
Try to avoid using pesticides, insecticides and herbicides on your garden as these either kill the wild flowers that bees desperately need to survive or can damage the bees systems. Neo-nicotinoid insecticides in plants get into pollen and nectar, which can kill the bee when it is consumed because of the neurotoxins. If the bee survives the lethal dose, then they are bringing back the toxin into the hive where it gets into the honey, which consequently means it can get into us.
Farmers need to change their practices and diversify their farms. Planting hedgerows will add life to the agricultural food desert. They too should avoid synthetic insecticides, pesticides and herbicides and opt for more natural controls. Examples include planting cover crops as organic fertiliser which can also act as bee food and crop rotation, which changes the species of crop grown on the land each year to prevent pests from getting accustomed to the plant.
Want to go even further? Volunteer at an apiary near you or why not train to become a beekeeper yourself. Bee Urban in London welcomes volunteers and has training courses. If you’re wary of bees, you can always donate or adopt a hive.
I want to leave one lasting thought in your mind, a quote by Spivak:
“When the bees have access to good nutrition, we have access to good nutrition.”