Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Little Fear Factor

The weather is stunningly beautiful today.  The sun is shining brightly.  The grass could not be greener.  The flowers are blooming with an almost blinding fierceness after the rain last night.   
My honeysuckle in its glorious prime.
In fact, the Linden trees at work have more blossoms than I’ve ever seen them have before.  The fragrance is intoxicating and I place it among my top three favorite scents (see also: gardenia and lavender).  It’s one of my favorite late spring sights: deep green leaves with heavily perfumed, dense shade buzzing with the activity of a million pollinators from the moment the sun peeks over the horizon until full dark in the evening.
Gratuitous photo of my blue columbine.

Except this year, it isn’t buzzing much.  In fact, from my admittedly limited vantage point on the ground, the tree I examined this morning next to the parking lot at work had absolutely no honeybees, masonbees, orchard bees, bumblebees, hornets, wasps, houseflies, horseflies, hoverflies, butterflies or any other type of pollinator you can think of.  Nothing.  Nada.  No insect activity at all.
Last year's bees on stonecrop
I remember thinking, “Huh.  How strange!” as I walked from the parking lot to the building where I work thinking that maybe it was too early in the morning for the bees.  By the time I got to my desk, I’d had a few minutes for that realization to sink in to my early morning brain fog.

No bees.



I have been noticing over the last few weeks that we have fewer bees at the homestead this year.  I thought maybe it was due to the fact that a fantastically large population of bees had been found in an abandoned house last summer and removed by some brave soul.  Taking about a buzzillion (*cringe* sorry) bees out of circulation in my neighborhood would impact the numbers I see in my gardens.

The place where I work is out in the country…more out in the country than my home is.  The plant is located on several dozen acres of land brimming to the top with grasses and native plants…and some not so native plants.  Around the edges of the property, past the railroad tracks and the highway and the gravel road out back, is cultivated land.  It’s corn mostly but some soybeans and even less milo all very carefully tended, cultivated and sprayed to rid the fields of any errant ‘weed’ or potentially troublesome critter.

Still.  Being out in the countryside, I expected to see more bees, not less.  The realization left a rather familiar knot of unease in the pit of my stomach that has slowly morphed into full-fledged fear in the intervening hours.  Fear for the uncertainty of the future in the least. But also,  more fear for the certainty of the future without adequate pollinators.  Would I spend my Golden Years up a ladder pollinating my apple tree like some folks in China are forced to do?  Gosh I hope not.  Not only for my own sake but for the sake of the planet.

I’ve seen lots of press lately about the plight of the honeybees.  Honeybees are not native to America.  Someone, somewhere along the line brought some over the sea and started keeping them here where they either escaped into the wild and did what bees are meant to do, or were set free to do so on their own.  Honeybees have become a multi-billion dollar impact on our economy through food crop pollination.  Something like 70% of our food is pollinated by bees or their kin.

A world without bees is unthinkable.  It could mean famine on a massive scale.  It’s the stuff of nightmares.

I wanted this blog to be a call to action.  I wanted to rile someone up and make them want to do something about the bees.  The trouble is I’m having difficulty figuring out exactly what it is I could do myself.  The reasons cited for the disappearance of our bees are many and varied although most agree that pesticide use is at the bottom of it all.

So, there it is.  It’s come down to this:  this woman who has had a phobia about bees all her life is contemplating starting an apiary of her very own.

Do me a favor?  Grow your food organically. Or buy organic food at the market.  Let’s work together to make conventional farming less profitable. Let's make using pesticides of any kind less attractive to farmers.  Maybe then we can make a difference.  

Or we can learn how to pollinate apple trees with cotton swabs.  It's really our choice.

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