Today, May 20, has been declared World Bee Day by the United Nations. The purpose is to draw global attention to the importance of bees, and invite concrete action to preserve and protect them.
May 20 was chosen as it is the birthday of Anton Jansa, a pioneer of modern beekeeping. He lived in the 1700s and was celebrated as an expert, and appointed to the beekeeping school in Vienna by Empress Maria Theresa.
It’s no secret that bee populations, as well as populations of other pollinators, have significantly decreased. The use of harmful chemicals, particularly the neonicotinoid pesticides, along with loss of habitat, and climate change are challenging bee survival.
Bees are critical to ensuring global safety of the food supply chain. Bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that make up 90% of the world’s food supply. That is nothing less than astonishing.
In many cultures across the world bees are regarded as sacred beings, and frankly I think it only takes a few moments of genuine observation of amazing creatures to understand this whole-heartedly.
It’s never enough to just declare a day for observation and call it good, without actually doing something. So what can we do? Certainly let the world know that bees matter. Make your garden more pollinator friendly, and urge your neighbors to give up on the neonicortinoids. Donate to bee-friendly organizations. Build homes for native bees – they’re suffering just as much as the honey bees. Encourage ecological balance and biodiversity.
In addition to educating ourselves and others, and advocating for the beloved bees, I think it’s a joy simply to celebrate them in every way we can.
I love the work of artist Bridgette Guerzon Mills and I consider myself very lucky to have collected several of her pieces. This encaustic work is entitled “Seeking Clarity.”
I have it displayed sitting on the ledge of a mirror over an altar in my office.
Another work of art I love is the collaboration between artist Wolfgang Buttress, musicians Tony Foster, Kev Bales, Deirdre Bencsik, Camille Christel and 40,000 honey bees. BE’s song Blue Lullaby incorporates sounds from the hive and it is suggested these are female worker bees talking to the unborn larvae to guide them into their future roles within the beehive. I love the idea of singing songs of “is-ness” and “being-ness” and am more than happy to picture my beloved bees doing this. Give a listen to this lovely song here.
Of course, in celebrating bees, I can’t help but imagine them in their glory in a garden of blooms. Mary Oliver’s poem Hum is one of my favorites, and I especially love these lines:
“The bees have gone simple, sipping,
that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?
They’re small creatures and they are
filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not
moan in happiness?”
So tell me, as Mary Oliver might ask, what do you plan to do for your one wild and precious bee population? I’ve spotted the first fat bumbles of the season and am inordinately delighted. With my lilacs starting to bloom, and the peonies budding, I soon hope many bees will moaning in happiness in my garden.
I love bumbles too! The danger to the bee population is truly terrifying.
It IS terrifying Margaret. Bumbles are incredible – they always make me laugh in delight.
Both here and in Australia for well over a decade now, there have been pushes to get folk not to put chemicals on their gardens and to use plants which draw the bees (and butterflies, another species affected similarly). Folk can even apply to the National Heritage to obtain wildflower seeds to promote more insect-friendly gardens. I no longer have a garden, not even terrace for pot plants, but I ensure my support of the bee by only buying organic honey. To produce that, the apiaries must ensure chemical free territory. If we buy more organic, then more organic will be demanded and – well, you get the drift! &*> YAM xx
I happy to hear about your more stringent admonishments about the use of chemicals and the encouragement of pollinator-friendly, native plant gardening. We need to see more of this worldwide!
And yay for organic honey. It’s hard to get certified here, and there’s always the big big big issue of chemical drift from the big industry agri-farms, and even smaller places. Poor bees have so many challenges.
Have you ever read The Bees by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy? It’s very good.
Oh Heather thank you! I was not aware of this collection, and being the poetry and bee lover that I am, I absolutely want to check it out. I’ve just put a loan search on it from my library, and can’t wait to read it.
I knew a woman who decided to get some hives and be a bee momma. Turns out it’s a lot of work to keep a thriving bee hive thriving– and her neighbors weren’t so thrilled with her chosen hobby. My friend moved and had to leave the bees behind, but from her experience I learned how difficult it can be to help the bees. This knowledge makes me appreciate all the people worldwide who work to keep our bees buzzing. May we all BEE so GOOD as they are.
Indeed Ally – kudos to all the human helpers working to assist our bees.
Navigating not-so-thrilled neighbors is clearly challenging, and too bad that’s part of the work as well. Perhaps throwing a bee education and honey tasting block party would be a good thing.
Hi Deborah – they’re putting hives on rooves in London … with beekeepers in charge – it’s an interesting development in trying to help keep bees going. There’s a lot of interest in them … yet they are ‘work’ … but good for the fresh air and exercise and then knowledge gained. Thanks for this delightful post … cheers Hilary
We’ve got a number of rooftop hives here as well Hilary, and I think it’s fabulous. But yes, no doubt there’s lots of hard work involved. But happy healthy bees are definitely something to celebrate.
Bees have always fascinated me. I am terrified of them because when I was little I was swarmed by an entire nest which took me out of commission for days. And yet, I love their imagery and symbolism (and the vegetables, fruits, and flowers they help keep thrive). I definitely support bees… from waaaay far away.
Oh goodness – what a terrifying experience indeed! And yet such an unusual thing, I can’t help but be fascinated as well. I can’t help but wonder if there was some sort of bee medicine initiation, but what an incredible challenge to endure. I’m glad it didn’t turn you against bees, but I can certainly understand the support-from-a-distance stance.