And So It Shall Bee
Growing pollinator gardens and beekeeping are not only creative and inspiring endeavors, they answer an urgent call to work as allies to these extraordinary creatures whose populations are under serious threat. There are many wonderful resources, classes and teachers of beekeeping and bee-related offerings in the Hudson Valley.
Let’s buzz in for a closer look…
Bees have long been heralded as builders of the truest community, makers of glorious honey, initiators of personal emotional and spiritual growth for beekeepers everywhere, and as inspiration for creativity, shamanic paths, and myths since ancient times. Sadly, a more recent reason for their claim to fame is that since the late 1990’s the bee population has been on a rapid decline worldwide. In fact, in 2016, their decimated numbers landed them on the endangered species list (under the Endangered Species Act of 1973) because almost 90% of the populations have been wiped out due to pesticides, habitat loss, climate change and increased rates of colony collapse disorder due to parasites and pathogens. Other deleterious factors are unethical industrial beekeeping practices and invasive plants and animals. Their uncertain future has led to 1 in 10 wild bee species facing extinction in Europe and elsewhere, as well as honeybees everywhere. Closer to home, American Bumblebees, once so plentiful, are also facing extinction, along with too many others.
According to earth.com “The great diversity among species of bees means that there is a great risk of losing species before we understand them. Many bee species have developed extremely complex and intricate relationships with plant species. These relationships provide pollination for plants that could otherwise never reproduce. With the loss of bees comes the loss of many plants. The diversity and evolution of insects likely played a major role in the evolution of flowering plants. We could lose this diversity that has developed over hundreds of millions of years in just decades.”
“Bees are in fact the most important living being on earth.” This bold statement was made recently by the Royal Geographical Society of London and the Earthwatch Institute.
To put it plainly: not only are these divine winged ones under threat, if they disappear, so will honey and your local beekeepers, along with your beloved strawberries, avocados, coffee, and much more that we consider staples on our tables. In fact, the Science Times reported that bees alone are responsible for 70% of the world’s agriculture. Humans may love bees for all the reasons we do and have, but pollinating plants and inspiring their reproduction is by far their most important. It’s time to go beyond the slogan: No Farms No Food.
No Bees…No Farms. No Farms…No Future Generations.
Their protection is crucial for bees and humans alike, amongst so many other life forms, as well as biodiversity in the plant world.
What can we do? Each of us. You and me. Today.
Grow and eat organically and locally from small, sustainable farms or your very own garden. Your food will taste and look better, you and your family will be healthier, you’ll know just where your food comes from and how, and you will be casting a vote against large-scale commercial agriculture as well as the environmental impact of shipping, long-term storage and more.
Stop using harmful pesticides like RoundUp and many other agricultural pesticides that are toxic to bees and other creatures. Glyphosate, the active chemical in RoundUp, reduces the gut bacteria in bees, leaving them vulnerable to pathogens and premature death. According to science.org, new research even suggests, “The harm of pesticides can accumulate over multiple generations, which could exacerbate the loss of species that provide valuable pollination for farms and ecosystems.”
Instead of opting for the uniformity of a freshly cut grass lawn, learn to love the herbs that grow near your home and discover their many healing properties and all the ways they are our allies. Not to mention, a convincing and reputable recent study links pesticides with Parkinson’s disease and cancer, and not just a little.
Encourage your friends, neighbors, local farmers, and company heads of the foods you eat to stop using dangerous chemicals too. Every year, more honey bee colonies are annihilated by pesticides, primarily insecticides that are neurotoxic to bees. Most impactfully, the group of insecticides called Neonicotinoids are absorbed by plants on farms as well as in urban landscapes and studies have shown they are particularly toxic to bees, even at extremely low concentrations. Still widely used in spite of their toxicity, these synthetic compounds are derived from nicotine, which is a natural insecticide. Coated on seeds, sprayed on soil and on the tissue of plants, they dangerously impact pollen and nectar, impairing bee reproduction and behavior, reducing the viability of sperm, and leading to much fewer baby bee-lings (a.k.a. larvae).
Hug your local beekeepers, frequent their farm stands, inspire them to share their valuable knowledge, take their classes and purchase their honey (yes even at higher prices). Please keep in mind, though chain-store honey may be cheaper, there has been plenty of studies and press showing that many of the “more affordable” brands are often adulterated—either with added sugars and pesticides or by commercial processing which heats and filters out the healing and immune supportive properties. The higher cost of bee love is well worth it!
Say THANK YOU bees and to all the other benevolent creatures! Did you know: more than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields? Bees and other magical animal pollinators (including butterflies, moths, birds, bats, and others) are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. GRATITUDE is a winged, crawly, and furred superhero! Ba-Bam!
Learn how to raise bees! This invaluable skill will help calm anxiety, build and carry forth traditional wisdom, bring you into a global community, help you become a better gardener, and gift you yummy honey and other bee treasures like pollen, beeswax and propolis…
Grow pollinator gardens! This not only encourages more bees and healthier veggies and fruits but supports other naturally beneficial insects—thereby reducing the need for pest control. Since it is believed that animal pollinators are responsible for the production of roughly 35 percent of the world’s food crops–again, that’s one out of every three bites of food you eat– and three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants, we want to encourage bee’s ability to thrive (among other creatures.) Go, local gardeners!
Let your lawns flower! Give your grass an extra couple of days to burst dandelions, clover flowers, and the like so that our local bees and pollinators have lots of flowers to smell, pollinate, and dance among. And don’t forget that those just mentioned, if not sprayed, add extra beauty, diversity, unique flavor, nutrition in your salads and more!
Talk to your local pest management company, Encourage them to use products and alternative methods that are truly safe. Even though pesticides like pyrethroids are considered “safe,” and allowed in organic agriculture as well as home pest management, they have been found to cause serious harm to bees, beneficial insects, as well as mammals, and the environment. Pyrethrum is derived from particular chrysanthemum flowers and is a naturally occurring mixture of chemicals used since the 1800s to kill ticks and various insects such as fleas and mosquitos. Your local company may boast they have a natural alternative to pest control, but dig a little deeper and almost all of them use a product loaded with this dangerous ingredient. Instead of pyrethrum-based “natural” pesticides to combat carpenter bees, staining or painting surfaces makes a huge difference!
Write letters to your local and national representatives, as well as local and national pest control companies about the urgency and importance of protecting the pollinators. We have to stop allowing corporations to have more rights than individuals and future generations! According to science.org, new research suggests, “The harm of pesticides can accumulate over multiple generations (in the bees), which could exacerbate the loss of species that provide valuable pollination for farms and ecosystems.” Let those with influence know how such ecocides will have long-lasting deleterious impacts in a myriad of ways.
Plant native plants, heirloom veggies, herbs and a diverse number of flowers. Bees love a wildly diverse garden so plant flowers of all sizes, shapes and colors, to support a greater number and rich diversity of pollinators.
Bee a protector of open space. Develop as little as possible, keep large swaths untouched, try to keep footprints of new construction as small as possible, let fields go fallow as much as possible, embrace and honor the wild.
In addition to impacting the food supply to humans, why do bees really matter?
Chris Harp of HoneyBeeLives.org in New Paltz explains it this way:
“Honeybees are amazing and gentle creatures. They live in colonies that function as a single organism, with each Honeybee working for the good of the whole. They nurture the beauty and fecundity of the earth with their gift of pollination, and through that pollination, mankind gains strength and nature, diversity.”
It has long been observed that bees are complex creatures that can sense one’s emotional and energetic state. Throughout history, across cultures and continents, bees have also been revered as symbols of life and rebirth, community, regeneration and as powerful connectors to the ancient ones and spirit. Many Hindu Gods have been connected with bees. Krishna and Indra were symbolized by the bee and called the Madhava or nectar-born ones. Bees have been honored as allies, here to harmonize nature and act as divine assistants to humans’ walk on earth.
In Egypt, for more than 9,000 years, humans and bees have shared a love story, playing an intimate role in the ancient world. Honey was used to sweeten foods, in ceremonies, for healing and embalming dead bodies, and even for paying taxes. From medicine to divinity, the honey bee practically reigned the realm of the sacred alongside their Gods and believed their Sun God, Re, created these complex creatures from his tears. They also believed that some spirits reincarnated as bees after death, their buzzing, the voice of their soul. Whatever you believe, we each can do our part to help these beautiful winged ones.
As expressed on animapacha.com,
“Bees are a reminder that even the smallest creatures can have a big impact. The bee spirit animal has much to teach us about hard work, cooperation, and enjoying the sweetness of life. They remind us to focus on goals and to keep working hard. Anything is possible when you stay on track.”
Let’s all do what we can to bee protectors of the pollinators, the earth and future generations.
Stay tuned for our next Bee Post – Resources for Beekeeping!