Originally published in New York Spirit
“But this time, bees did not produce enough honey.”
“The rainy season is anyway the less honey-flow period as bees don’t go out when it rains and there is less nectar availability but this time, abrupt weather conditions made it even tougher. My sister will send honey in the next season.”
And I resumed watching the leafcutter bee supping up nectar from red-and-yellow Firewheel flower in the garden while I sipped my nectar– green tea with honey.
I spent my childhood here, a small town about 50kms away from the capital. I miss this nature-clad house in my concrete-laden city. Her sister lives in a small village, amidst the abundant supply of pure, organic, and wholesome foods. She was narrating about her recent visit there.
My grandma got married after she finished high school. She never studied environmental studies, but I think grandparents’ generations didn’t need to discover nature in books. All that wisdom evolved from living in the village and experiencing it first-hand. Old, frail eyes can observe the rampant destruction occurring from few decades. She doesn’t need research to recognize the declining number of indigenous trees, and the difference in taste and shape of today’s fruits and vegetables. She reminisces how farming practices were nature-friendly and didn’t include overdose of chemicals that are poisoning our systems.
Bees would agree with that. The ones that are trying hard to survive. Uncontrolled use of pesticides, deforestation and climate change being the prime reasons for bringing some of their species at the brink of extinction.
Grateful to bees?
80% of the world’s agriculture depends exclusively on bees as they pollinate and facilitates the plants to reproduce. Man is a self-proclaimed genius. Even after knowing what chemicals are doing to the bees, the most important living being on the planet (yes, they got the official tag by the Earthwatch Institute), France is the only country to ban all five pesticides that are toxic to them. European Union agreed on a ban on three neonicotinoids beginning from December 2018. France went a step ahead, banned two more pesticides messing with bees’ nervous system, not only in outdoors as suggested by the law, but in greenhouse spaces as well. China tops the list of using pesticides to a level that not only is harming bees but polluting soil, air, and water, followed by the USA.
Imagine a world without ice-cream. Or coffee? Even the shallow, myopic side of human nature cannot deny their significance. Apples, cashews, almonds, avocados, oranges, vanilla, coffee, and about 80% of our crops are dependent on bees for their pollination including cotton and many nutrient-rich foods. Natural pollination by native bees also improves the quality of the crop. 90% of the world’s nutrition is a gift from these beneficent pollinators. Agriculture adds around $4.2 trillion to the global economy. If bees are gone, massive food scarcity will collapse economies and well, us!
Utrecht in the Netherlands gave a makeover to their bus stops in mid-2019 by adding bee-friendly flowers and plants that are acting not only as a haven for bees but storage for rainwater, cooling-off-masks in summers, absorbing carbon, embellishing the city and more. Subsidies are also being offered to the citizens who want to build these ‘green-roofs’ on their houses.
Likewise, Minnesota lawmakers approved a budget of $900,000 for the creation of honeybee habitat by distributing it to homeowners who are willing to transform their gardens into bee-friendly spaces by planting specific grasses, wildflowers, clovers, and other food sources to help save the bumblebees.
National Pollinator Garden Network successfully created a network of over 1 million homeowners and gardeners from around the world to save declining pollinator populations by agreeing to create pollinator-friendly habitat.
Ways to Bee-friend
Plant native flowers. They feast on some herbs, ripe vegetables, and fruits too. Leave space for wild growth, let those wildflowers bloom.
Don’t mow your grass often. Maybe leave it a little taller. Instead of two inches, let it be four.
Let the dry mulch of stems and leaves stay in your garden. It acts as bee habitat. Many native species nest in the ground.
Support organic farming by buying organic foods as they don’t use pesticides. Don’t go by false advertising. Bee-friendly can be a marketing strategy to mislead you. Look for the ‘Bee Better Certified’ seal in the US.
Acquaint yourself with different types of bees and their roles in the ecosystem.
Only 2% of the bees are responsible for 80% of the pollination. Not all but eight species of bees are endangered. Honey bees aren’t. Rusty patched bumble bee is. Not all live in hives. 70% of them nest in grounds or cavities in trees. Native bees need much more support. They are single mothers and solitary creatures.
Expertise and healthy bee-keeping practices by bee-keepers and producers will help optimize crop production.
Researchers found that bees do waggle dance moves to communicate while flying. 1500 different moves to inform where is the pollen source, how far, where to turn, and more. With your support, maybe the next waggle move will be the address to your blooming garden. 🐝