Bumblebees are chubby little chaps with striped bodies that remind me so much of my childhood; after all, there were so many of them around during those long summer days. Unfortunately this is no longer the case and the humble bumblebee is going hungry due to a lack of nectar, and as a result their numbers are shrinking rapidly.
But what can we do to help?
I’m encouraged to see so many wild flower areas springing up in my local parks. Grass is left uncut, allowing the flowers to grow that provide necessary nourishment to the bees. You may want a pristine lawn, but consider making some room in your garden for a wild area to help the bees.
You can also help by considering planting more flowers in your garden that bees find easier to access and extract larger volumes of pollen from. Heather, lavender and snapdragons all provide a considerable feast for our bees, encouraging them in to our garden and creating quite a buzz.
Kew Gardens have a great exhibit currently. Called The Hive (see photos above and below) this fantastic structure portrays the story of the honey bee and the important process of pollination, both for us and for the bee. It was created by UK artist, Wolfgang Suttress and was originally requisitioned for the UK Pavilion display at the Milan Expo 2015. The design is quite incredible; made from thousands of pieces of aluminium and containing hundreds of LED lights that randomly light up to a background track of buzzes and hums that can be heard all around you. The Hive is directly linked to the activity of bumblebees, whereby it responds to the activity of bees in a beehive behind the scenes at Kew. The sound and light pattern is driven by the energy generated in the beehive, allowing you an insight in to the intensity and activity level of the bees. I visited Kew last week and stood in the centre of The Hive, listening to the sounds and photographing the fantastic structure from many angles.
The experience links directly to the book I am currently reading, The Bees by Laline Paull, the recent reading selection of a Canadian book club that I was a member of when I lived in Toronto. Paull’s debut novel is a fantasy about the life of bees. Of note is the main character Flora 717 who is a bee dealing with many issues, a misfit with a sense of adventure who leaves her caste behind and rises through the ranks. Flora 717 experiences things that other bees of her standing can only dream of and as a result brings both threats and opportunities to her hive. It’s an interesting and engaging novel that offers a somewhat interesting and quirky insight in to the world of bees.
This is in sharp contrast to my last read, which also explores the role of bees, but from a very different angle. The Secret Life of Bees, written by Sue Monk Kidd, is set in the 1960s in South Carolina and shares the story of fourteen year old Lily Owens who escapes her cruel father whilst in pursuit of information relating to her late mother. There are many twists and turns along the way, including time spent in prison and subsequent jail breaking, before Lily finds the Boatwright sisters who are able to unlock the secrets of Lily’s mother’s past. You may be wondering what all this has to do with bees, and if you are I can explain that the Boatwright sisters are beekeepers and introduce Lily to the practice during her stay with them. If you’re looking for a new read, it’s a very pleasant book, easy to read and with an engaging storyline.
If you’re interested, read more via the references below.