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.