World Bee Day seems like a good day to have a bee-related edition of The Hive, my round-up of positive (solarpunk) eco news stories. The UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day in 2017, to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.
A 7-mile-long ‘bee corridor‘ is being planted in north London this year, to boost the number of pollinating insects. The wildflower meadows will be put in place in 22 of Brent Council’s parks in north London. [That article goes on to say that there are about 250 species of bees, but it doesn’t say that’s only in the UK. Worldwide, there are more than 25,000 known species of bees, organised in seven families. Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Californian bees will welcome the fire poppies that are popping up after last year’s devastating wildfires. Fire poppies, Papaver californicum, are a rare and elusive species that only grows on scorched earth; they come in orange, red and brick red. Fire poppy seeds will only germinate after they have been exposed to smoke; for other ‘fire follower’ species, heat or charred soil are the signal to get growing.
A community development worker has invented a credit card-style reviver for bees containing three sachets of sugar solution, which can be placed beside tired insects to feed them. Each card contains three indentations containing a beekeepers’ formula, secured by foil-backed stickers which can be peeled off. Dan Harris has set up Bee Saviour Behaviour, a not-for-profit co-operative, to make the revivers, which he hopes to source from recycled plastic cards. If he hits his £8,000 crowdfunding target, he can commission a company to make the indentations, which he hand-fills with a sugar solution recommended by beekeepers. If he raises more funds, his co-op can mass – produce them.
In Myanmar a social enterprise Plan Bee was setup in the nectar-rich forests of eastern Shan State, a mountainous and temperate area. The advantages of beekeeping are that it requires few resources and just a tiny parcel of land, and it allows women to create new businesses based on beeswax by-products, such as candles and lip balm.
Over 1 million homeowners and gardeners from around the world have joined the fight to save dwindling pollinator populations. The National Pollinator Garden Network has surpassed their goal of registered pollinator gardens with just over 1,040,000 gardens now registered with their Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Launched in 2015, the National Pollinator Garden Network asks gardeners to plant large amounts of pollinator-friendly plants and wild grasses that are both native and non-invasive species, and to offer breaks from the wind, exposure to direct sunlight, and a water source.
And research has found that solar farms can provide an ideal location for plants that attract pollinators. Often filled with gravel or turf grass, the land around panels generally goes unused, but in some locations it offers the perfect place to establish native plant species, such as prairie grass or wildflowers, around which pollinators are prevalent. Planting pollinator habitat on solar farms near agricultural farmland could dramatically improve crop yields, generating as much as $4 billion in agricultural revenue.
This week I have been reading a new book, The Good Bee by experts Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum. It has 4 chapters, and Chapter 1 takes up about half the book, explaining in great detail the different sorts of bees that occur on Earth. From the mainstream media coverage, you’d be forgiven that all bees are social, and produce honey, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Read the book to learn about how bees evolved alongside flowers, their lifecycles and predators, and the vital role each species plays in our ecosystem.
Chapter 2 focuses on ‘Bees and Us’ and looks at the history of beekeeping and the uses of honey, and has some really yummy recipes (I’m looking forward to trying the Blackberry and Mint Mocktail!
Chapter 3 explores the threats facing bees, and chapter 4 had some advice on how we can help them, from gardening with bees in mind and building bee nests, to advocating for bee-friendly farming and rewilding.
Enthralling and enlightening, The Good Bee will bring you right up to date on the peril our pollinators are in, and give you the tools to help them. My only slight quibble with the book it that all of its wonderful illustrations are in black and white. If you want to have a go at identifying all of the bees that you find in your garden, you’ll need a good colour identification guide. But Friends of the Earth have a website with really good pictures, and a downloadable PDF, which they created for the Great British Bee count, so arm yourself with a copy, plant your flowers and sit back and wait for the bees to come!