Monday, September 1, 2008

Our Friends the Bees

The Rising Sun and Early Morning Mist called me on a walkabout. With Camera in hand,I headed out. Perhaps that Little Camera has become an extension of the Eye and Heart of Me. It has an added benefit. I get to take you along too.

As I arrived at the patch of Mammoth Russian Sunflowers in full bloom in the Big Garden, I was delighted to see Bees. We haven't seen many this Summer. I didn't see them on every Sunflower. But there they were, busily working through the Sunflowers with all the energy they bring to this Beautiful Late Summer Day.

I did some Internet searching. Most of following facts come from an article released in 2006 except others as noted:
  • Pollinators (such as bees, birds, bats) affect 35% of the world's Food Crop Production.
  • We should thank Pollinators for every 1 in 3 bites of Food we eat. Just stare down at the next plate of food in front of you and think about it: 1 in 3 bites of Food we eat.
  • Honey Bees pollinate Apples, Nuts, Avocados, Soybeans, Asparagus, Broccoli, Celery, Squash, Cucumbers, Citrus Fruits, Peaches, Kiwi, Cherries, Blueberries, Cranberries, Strawberries, Cantaloupe and other Melons. (msnbc) I find it amusing that I am having Cantaloupe for Breakfast.
  • Some crops are 90% dependent on honey bee pollination (examples: blueberries and cherries). (American Beekeeping Federation)
  • Almonds are entirely dependent on honey bee pollination at bloom time. (American Beekeeping Federation)
  • Honey Bees in North America have been decimated due to infestations of parasitic mites among others.
Claire Kremen, a Conservation Biologist at the University of California-Berkeley, expressed concern regarding Wild Bees: "We've replaced pollination services formerly provided by diverse groups of wild bees with domesticated honey bees. ... The problem is, if we don't protect the wild pollinators, we don't have a backup plan."

So what do we Humans need to do? Kremen suggests moving toward more sustainable agriculture, with less use of synthetic fertilizers and more reliance on natural ecosystems.

She suggests switching from flood irrigation. Her reasoning is that such practices drown ground nesting bee species. I wonder: What did the heavy rains this summer do to our Friends the Bees?

Kremen suggests allowing weeds and native plants to prosper along crop borders. And that makes sense as these plants can sustain a variety of wild bee species when crops are not in bloom.

Now who would have ever thought of that? But of course, Bees need practices that sustain them too.

Some Folks may scoff at allowing weeds and native plants growing alongside our formerly tidy crops. But we Humans have been scoffing at Nature for far too long. That scoffing has produced practices outside what Nature has intended.

Humans are part of Natural Systems rather than separate from them. Things aren't working. We Humans need to pack in some courage to look at our everyday practices and take on some much needed change.

I wonder if our beautiful Sunflowers (which will also feed the Wild Birds and Chickens this Winter) are drawing Bees into our Big Field. I wonder what other food crops that we grow are dependent on these practices. I wonder if my romance with Flowers in the Vegetable Garden is not just Feminine Fancy but rather an invitation to partnership with our Friends the Bees and therefore a vital part of our Family Farm's Food Production.

We 3 C's have been trying over the years to use Food which depends on Sustainable Practices and Natural Systems. In the early years, that meant Organic Foods. We knew Synthetic Chemicals were outside what Nature intended. They were just plain nasty. As our journey continued, we began growing more and more of our own Food. Today that means growing as much of our own Food as possible. It also means protecting and restoring the Natural Ecosystems on this Little Farm.

Sustainability also extends to the purchase of simple things like Honey. When we purchase Honey from local Beekeepers with similar values, we support the Little Critters who depend on a Healthy Environment. We Humans depend on a Healthy Environment too.

What's good for Bees is good for Humans too.

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