In the Bible, Honey is often referenced in relation to the context of good, abundance and blessing. The Land of Milk and Honey, referred to in the Old Testament - "a land flowing with milk and honey" – seems a likely allegory for land that would provide abundantly for all living beings.
“That day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:18)
Our current planet is failing to provide abundantly. We see this in our daily newspapers and witness it in the real world. We see it in the melting of our polar caps to the bush fires of Australia. One project that aims to address human environmental impact in a small but meaningful way is The Open Bee Project. Our Open Bee Project introduces a platform in which we can strengthen the urban bee and insect population. Healthy queen bees provide the backbone to honeybee colonies and apiaries, so protecting them are within the main priorities of the project.
It is well known that it is within our best interests that global populations be educated and encouraged in taking action to reduce the causes that contribute towards our environmental crisis. Much of global warming can be attributed to the enthusiastic take up of the latest technologies and trends – from cars, to plane travel, to meat products. However, our private urban gardens can play a significant role in many aspects. Particularly, we have the ability to help urban pollinator populations to grow and become healthier. Bees and other pollinators are essential to our food production. If we fail to adapt our urban areas to their best needs, our very own food supply will dwindle and, ultimately, give out.
Mainly, the Open Bee Project aims to encourage the United Kingdom and Global population to take action, simply by acting from home. This starts with registering your garden as bee-friendly. There are many factors that have contributed to the decline of urban bees and other pollinator population. Namely, the urban development of our cities intensive farming habits has been insensitive to the population of bees; their pollinator-friendly habitats have decreased significantly as a result. In fact, government figures show that in the UK, only 6% of habitats protected by EU laws are in '"favourable condition" (Friends of the Earth).
A dominant player in this tragedy is the use of pesticides. Pesticides, particularly the use of Neonicotinoids, a specific type of bee-harming pesticides, have many adverse impacts on the species of bees. These range from reducing breeding success to reducing their resistance to diseases. It has also been proven that the use of such pesticides may diminish a bee’s ability to navigate and even to reproduce at all. Pesticides are so very commonly used as a tool to kill unwanted pests, but homeowners are largely unaware of the toxic properties that are capable of causing such damage to pollinator populations.
An EU project focusing on changing land use identified the urban effect on green space within the UK. Within its classifications there is "continuous urban fabric" (CUF), which applies where 80 to 100% of the land surface is built upon. As an example, the City of London is 98% CUF. The BBC estimates that generally across the UK, 2.5% of the land mass is made up of what might be referred to as "green urban – i.e. parks, gardens, golf courses etc. These are some of the areas we want to target in our Open Bee Project.
Other more agricultural areas, such as farms, account for the rest of our UK land mass. Interestingly, a recent 10-week study by Windsor Great Park in Surrey, published in the Royal Society Journal, demonstrated "a direct relationship between ubranisation and reproductive success." Interestingly, it seems that bees have evolved to be city dwellers and survive better in urban areas. Statistics showed that the "numbers of sexual offspring, the size of food stores, and ability to avoid parasite invasion was all improved in towns." Clearly, then, our focus must be on the urban areas that attract the most bees due to forage availability.
The Open Bee Project calls out to other insect-friendly organisations to join in a pledge in raising awareness and encouraging homeowners and councils to adopt a policy of implementing bee-friendly green spaces. To analyse the success of this project, we will be reaching out to agencies and councils that have the capacity to record such gardens by area. We also want to run activities and social events within counties to encourage the projects success.
Mainly, this project will be about spreading awareness, and, where possible, collect donations towards the cause down the line. Over the course of the next few months, we will be posting more about The Open Bee Project. Please, do get involved and/or leave us your feedback. Thank you!