August 31, 2012
By Matt Palmer
I have a love/hate relationship with insects. Generally, I love to hate them. Unfortunately, my sons love insects, and my oldest is a great grasshopper hunter. We have a number of plastic containers filled with the green jumpers sitting on our front steps, collected on a walk in the forest near our home last weekend. Both boys love watching the grasshoppers, and feeding them leaves and grass.
Earlier this summer we discovered ground bees had taken up residence under the front step. This discovery excited the boys. I knew that wasps built nests underground, but I had no idea that bees did the same thing. My youngest son, who was stung by a wasp last summer, was initially afraid, but thanks to a great children’s story “How Bees Got Their Sting” he understands that bees generally will not sting. They die if they do. We explained to the boys that the bees are important for the flowers and gardens in the neighbourhood.
But bees are disappearing. Worldwide bee collapse is a huge issue. No one knows why the bees are dying. Without them agriculture and food production will suffer, and prices will rise.
Enter the city bee. It turns out city bees have a better survival rate than country bees. And, they produce more honey.
The TED talk by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, a bee enthusiast and researcher from Boston, highlights some valuable potentials for urban bees and beekeeping. He has even helped to develop a natural immune booster for the bees, that will hopefully help stave off collapse.
That is one of the scariest things in this story. Bees are not just dying. They are disappearing. No bodies. No evidence of their demise. Collapse.
Is urban beekeeping a way to bring back the bees? One of the families at our sons’ school has just started a bee colony in their backyard. 5,000 bees. Sounds scary, and maybe not for everyone, but Dr Wilson-Rich points out how we can transform cities with green roofs and urban bees. In Boston, most people do not even know the bees are there. The Fairmont Hotel in Boston has bees on their roof, and no signs so far of a greater demand on room service or requests for the spa.
As we look at the multitude of issues facing our global environment, seeing stories like this one, and how innovative and counter-intuitive thinking produces great results, shows how important it is to let go of pre-conceptions, and biases. Some of the best solutions come in unexpected ways.