An Interview with Jenny Bailey on The Great Georgia Pollinator Podcast. Jenny chats with Becky Griffin, Community and School Garden Coordinator, Certified Beekeeper/Pollinator Health Program Associate from the University of Georgia, USA.
Julie Paillaugue, Environmental Scientist focused on Climate Change/Holistic Resilience and Adaptation Actor/Nature Enthusiast. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Have you ever wondered how can one have children without thinking about the future, not only from a self-centric point of view, but also from a global community perspective? ‘Community’ here put humans back into the biodiversity context: “man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” said Rachel Carson1.
It was when talking with a colleague about my international degree that I realized quite a few of my peers (including me) ended up with depression and needed a break from studies. ‘The major’, you’ll ask? Climate change. Under all its angles. Scientific mainly, but also political, legal, economic. Yet, an essential part was missing. A tribute to all the positive enterprises, the actions that proved their worth, the ambitious people and their creativity, working to reduce impacts, preserve biodiversity, restore the soils and so on, at their scale, for a Butterfly Effect. The display of hope was lacking. Even if the drastic changing climate and its effects are well en route, the initiatives to help and promote pollinators conservation are flourishing. We just don’t hear about them as much as we should. Not profitable enough for media, I guess.
Maybe you are scratching the back of your head, wondering how exactly climate change is affecting pollinators survival rate, and thus human’s food safety? Preferred habitats of numerous bumblebees appear to be the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, notably in colder climates such as in high mountains and arctic environments1. Higher temperatures, extended drought periods and the difficulty for pollinators to cope with recurrent extreme weather events is leading to a decrease of their habitats availability and is likely to diminish even more their population2, 3, 4.
Higher temperatures also mean higher susceptibility of getting diseases and parasites for bees, generating colony collapse5. The growing unpredictability of seasonal changes is another threatening factor for pollinators, as the moment when flowers are producing pollen and the moment when pollinators are ready to feed on them may not be synchronized anymore3, 5.
Climate change may be hardly scalable and reachable for children and adults, as far as the leverage of our individual actions. Yet, the Butterfly Effect has taught us the incredible possibilities of small initiatives. Higher public awareness about the importance of pollinators biodiversity has triggered a higher citizens engagement in local conservation initiatives in several European countries6. Such trends then fuel more inclination for organic agriculture practices, pesticide-free green areas management, collaborations between NGOs and businesses to fund wild pollinator projects, more pollinator-friendly habitats created and restored in urban, rural areas and national, regional parks. Simple actions such as planting pollinators-friendly corridors7 or even small green areas, leaving wild parts of our yard8 (no more long Saturday afternoons on the lawnmower burning fuel, yay!), planting native vegetation9, saving their seeds for next year and sharing them with the neighbors, can make a significant difference. 1 + 1 + 1 + … + 1 = infinity (∞). I believe in changing minds by ‘showing the example’, no heated debate needed. Our actions and passions, as citizen, parent, friend, often carry more weight and influence than any word could.
Finally, no matter the age, the outdoor nurtures healing, but also creativity, problem-solving, observational and listening skills (oh how crucial in our communication-deficient society), to name a few. Helping biodiversity means reconnecting with Nature, and thus reconnecting with our deepest nature.
- Carson, R., 1962. Silent Spring. 1st ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
- Nieto, A., Roberts, S.P.M., Kemp, J., Rasmont, P., Kuhlmann, M., García Criado, M., Biesmeijer, J.C., Bogusch, P., Dathe, H.H., De la Rúa, P., De Meulemeester, T., Dehon, M., Dewulf, A., Ortiz-Sánchez, F.J., Lhomme, P., Pauly, A., Potts, S.G., Praz, C., Quaranta, M., Radchenko, V.G., Scheuchl, E., Smit, J., Straka, J., Terzo, M., Tomozii, B., Window, J. and Michez, D. 2014. European Red List of bees. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union.
- Jackson, L., 2019. East of England Bee Report: A report on the status of threatened bees in the region with recommendations for conservation action. Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Peterborough. [online] WWF. Available at: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/bees-feel-sting-climate-change [Accessed 1 September 2021].
- Roberts, S.P.M., Potts, S.G., Biesmeijer, K., Kuhlmann, M., Kunin, B., Ohlemüller, R., 2011. Assessing continental scale risks for generalist and specialist pollinating bee species under climate change. BioRisk 6, pp.1–18. http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/biorisk.6.1325
- Duran, L., 2017. The buzz on climate change: It’s bad for bees. [online] Available at: https://www.conservation.org/blog/the-buzz-on-climate-change-its-bad-for-bees/ [Accessed 1 September 2021]
- Underwood, E., Darwin, G. and Gerritsen, E., 2017. Pollinator initiatives in EU Member States: Success factors and gaps. Report for European Commission under contract for provision of technical support related to Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 – maintaining and restoring ecosystems and their services ENV.B.2/SER/2016/0018. Institute for European Environmental Policy, Brussels.
- Open Access Government, 2020. Eight conservation success stories of 2020. [online] Available at: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/nine-conservation-success-stories-2020/91477/ [Accessed 10 September 2021]
- Singelis, P., 2021. Here’s how you can help save bees and other pollinators. [online] Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/US/save-bees-pollinators/story?id=76564624 [Accessed 10 September 2021]
- WWF, 2021. 5 tips on how to transform your garden into a wildlife haven. [online] Available at: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/5-tips-how-transform-your-garden-wildlife-haven [Accessed 10 September 2021]
Green reads and activities for you & your children
Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, 1997. The Keepers of the Earth series:
• Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children
• Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children
• Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children
Tristan Gooley, 2015. The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills.
Angela J. Hanscom, 2016. Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children. 1st ed. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications.
Richard Louv, 2008. Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. 2nd ed. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Linda Åkeson McGurk, 2018. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). 1st ed. New York: Touchstone.
Suzanne Simard. How trees talk to each other. TEDSummit, 2016, https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other?language=en
Peter Wohlleben, 2016. The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from A Secret World. 8th ed. Vancouver: Greystone Books.
To go further
Moore, Robin C, 1997. The Need for Nature: A Childhood Right. Social Justice, vol. 24, no. 3 (69), pp. 203-220. Available through: JSTOR website https://www.jstor.org/stable/29767032 [Accessed 25 August 2021]
Taylor, A.F., Kuo, M., Sullivan, W.C., 2001. Coping with ADD. The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), pp.54-77. Available through: ResearchGate website https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249624329_Coping_with_ADD_The_Surprising_Connection_to_Green_Play_Settings [Accessed 25 August 2021]
It’s Friday; late frosts nip the buds of emerging shoots and coat the lawns with a carpet of sugar frosting. The sun in April skies, spreads dappled shade under budding trees, with greens and yellows especially bright in the spring sunshine.
I’ve joined Mark Douglas of Bee 1 on his land, just outside Neath in South Wales. Apart from putting names to faces, I’m here to assist him in relocating three colonies of bees to their new home in the valley’s. I don my mask and join him in his car. In the back are three Nucleus boxes (‘Nukes’) containing around 60,000 bees complete with their Queens.
Although we can’t hear them, I’m assured by Mark that they are probably a tad fed up, after being rattled around in the back of the car for over an hour, and now as we complete their journey with a mile and a half of bumpy gravel track to their final destination, I would imagine they’re planning their revenge!
Several cattlegrids later and we climb steeply to a clearing in the gorse bushes. In front of me is our ‘Phoebe the Bee’ hive, busy with workers coming and going. Tales from Mother Earth are currently collaborating with Bee1 in getting the conservation message out to children about Bees and other pollinators and has very kindly donated a home for Phoebe.
Mark initially hopes to get a copy of our book to all primary schools in Wales.
Next to that, there’s a fenced off area containing the main apiary, with an array of different hives and the all-important field HQ of Bee 1. I’m charged with carrying one of the Nukes and placing it on a vacant hive, which will become their new home. I suddenly feel the huge weight of responsibility in their success.
We leave the nukes to settle for half an hour or so to calm the bees down, while Mark shows me around the apiary, describing the different hives, looking inside one of the empty hives and talking about his work and the relationships with his sponsors and supporters. Despite the buzzing all around me and the obvious activity around the entrances to the hives, I felt surprisingly calm in the bee’s presence. With the gorse in full bloom, we could see the bulging pollen sacks on the bee’s legs as they returned to the hive after their mornings foraging. Interesting, I noticed the activity being more prominent around the hives that were currently in the sun.
“Right,” said Mark. “Time to get you suited up.” And so, it was a first for me, at 59 years old and with no hesitation, I found myself looking through the netting of the head covering in my bee cover-all suit, with my host also duly attired.
Photo opportunities taken, I discovered that bees don’t much care to have their pictures taken, so no luck there. I then rotated the disc on the front of the nuke to open the entrance allowing the bees to escape, stepping back briskly in case some of them were still looking for vengeance.
In this situation, Mark tells me that bees will fly straight upwards to get a bearing on the hive’s location, taking note of landmarks and trees to guide them home after foraging. He then tells me that the nuke will be left in place for a while before moving the queen and brooding stock to the new hive directly under the styrene box which has been their temporary home.
Having commissioned the three colonies, Mark and I return to the car smiling.
Bee1 was set up to promote the awareness and importance of bees in our ecosystem, and also to use bee keeping as a way of helping in the treatment and recovery to mental wellbeing in humans. The other biproducts from bee keeping is the wonderful honey they produce. Bee1 is also developing and marketing products, from Hive building kits and instruction courses for bee keeping, to honey and flavoured drinks and alcohol. All these products come with a strong message that bees are the most important species on the planet and to also highlight the dangers of the decline in the global populations of all pollinators.
My thanks to Mark for an enjoyable and educational visit. It was truly wonderful to share this experience and to get close to the bees, and to see Phoebe’s home in the beautiful and idyllic countryside of South Wales.
We thank Helen Rogers of Highgate Honey for bringing you today’s guest blog on Feeding the Bees.
Feeding the Bees.
In the UK we have about 270 different types of bee. Most of these are solitary bees, 27 are bumble bees and we have 1 type of honeybee. The different types of bee are all various shapes and sizes – the biggest are the large furry bumbles and the smallest are similar in size to a grain of rice. Flowers are absolutely essential for the survival of bees. Bees need pollen and nectar for nourishment and to feed to the larvae that develop into adult bees. Plants need bees to pollinate their flowers to produce fruit and seeds. Humans rely on these fruits and seeds to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
Some bees are extremely particular about which flowers they like to forage on. Other bees are physically unable to feed on certain plants – their tongue may be too short to reach where the flower stores the nectar, or their body may be too big to fit inside the flower.
If we want to help Phoebe the Bee and her bee friends to thrive, then it is really important that we plant a good range of different flowers to accommodate as many types of bee as possible, wherever we can. At this time of the year, honeybees and bumblebees are busy collecting pollen from flowers like crocuses and snowdrops. This is the protein needed to raise their brood. Later in the year they require a lot of nectar for energy from flowers like borage and lime trees.
The tricky part for gardeners is picking which plants are going to be the best for bees and will also look good and grow well in a particular garden. We have produced a small book, “80 Flowers for Bees” which is a collaboration between a beekeeper and a horticulturalist to help take the guesswork out of choosing suitable flowers. We’ve put in detailed information about when plants flower, what type of soil they like, how big they grow and why they are good for bees. If you’d like to buy a copy, please head over to our website shop: www.highgatehoney.com/shop
Last autumn we started a project to convert the front lawn at our house into a flower garden for bees. In the past we had let dandelions and clover grow and flower in the grass, but we decided that we could do so much more. Late last year we covered the whole lawn with a layer of card, then a layer of compost. This is a brilliant, chemical free, way of killing the grass. Next we poked holes through the card and planted loads of bulbs which are flowering now. It is exciting to see that bees are already foraging on the flowers that we are growing. In a few weeks time, once the chance of frosts has passed, we will scatter a mix of seeds over the area. We’ve picked seeds that will grow into plants whose flowers bees love – We can’t wait to see the results! We hope that our transformation will inspire other people in the neighbourhood to plant more bee friendly flowers.
If you’d like to follow the progress of our lawn to flower garden project, then please follow us on Instagram (@highgatehoney) and join our Facebook group – Plants that Bees Love.
Recently our co-founder Jenny Bailey was asked to write blog for Little Wild Tales on the importance of ‘Re-wilding Childhood’.
It gives us great pleasure to share this with you here.