City Bees

Cities could save bees?

Reading The Grist I came across a blurb about cities saving bees. Following this summary back to the original article in the Telegraph I read up and developed a few questions about the real potential for city apiaries’ ability to provide a safe haven to these stinging pollinators.

So what is the solution to our declining bee populations? Well in order to figure out any challenge you have to look at the underlying problem and then try to find a sustainable solution for that situation.

Using an old cabinet an urban homesteader has created a space for one of several backyard hives.
Using an old cabinet an urban homesteader has created a space for one of several backyard hives.

Flaw #1 Misdiagnosed problem

Based on the article the problem as diagnosed as cities being inhospitable to bees.  The proposed solution, or one of them is to enable bees to live in the city. But the reason that bees are dying off is not because cities are currently inhospitable.  Research is showing us that there are a number of challenging to dwindling populations, however mainly pesticides are the culprits.  Shift the challenge from bee-ing about the mean streets to bee-ing about chemicals and notice how your thinking on a solution changes.

The Role of Bees

Bees are pollinators: this means that they fly from plant to plant moving pollen around subsequently making it possible for those plants to reproduce. They are a critical element in the lifecycle of many plants, which makes bees a Keystone Species. Without bees we are without many plants and the diversity of our diet decreases.  As any permaculturist will tell you (I have my PDC) diversity is important to a system being sustainable. We need bees so that we can eat.  I realize I’m saying this very succinctly but I can’t imagine any flowery (hehe) way to put it.  While we might find something else that didn’t die off to eat, there would be added stress on those species because other animals (remember, we aren’t alone on this planet) would also be relying on a smaller variety of plants, a continual cycling process in which we would have to solve the same problem over and over. This is called shifting the burden.

Consider also…

That the same pesticides that are hurting the bees are also having an effect on us and other wildlife, so is it too far to stretch that the unhealthiness that we are able to see in the fauna (the bees) that aid our flora (the plants that rely on them) is also affecting them?

Let me propose a story. Flora and Fauna are in a relationship that goes back 100 million years. Then in 2000 BC Adam (humans) started using sulfur as a pesticide to aid plant growth leading to the introduction of other nature based solutions. The big kicker came when Adam switched to and widely spread synthetic pesticides in the 1940’s. Over the course of what is a hiccough in the time of Earth, Fauna started dying.  Because Flora and Fauna are two representatives of the larger ecosystem of Earth, Adam’s interference effected not only Fauna, but also Flora, Adam, and Earth.

Flaw #2 The Bees don’t need a new home.

If in order to maintain biodiversity and keep many species alive bees are needed in their role of pollinator, then they don’t need to find a new home far away from the wild and our cultivated fields; we need for them to remain able to live there. On first thought it seems that it would be good for the diversity and flora of city life to benefit from the addition of hospitable environments for bees. I’m not a biologist so I’m going to leave that research and diagnosis to them.

What’s the Fix?

While there are many proposed solutions out there (there is no one link, there are tons!) I’m going to suggest that the solution to the problem of bees dying is not what was suggested by the Telegraph.  Removal of the pesticides that are killing them from the environment is a better first step.  But like in the beginning as I was looking at the misdiagnosed problem of where we are looking to find a solution if you again ask ‘Why?’ a deeper answer and solution become available.  In this case it might be ‘Why are we using pesticides that harm humans and most other (no, not all) species on the Earth?’ Think about it.  Is there a solution that comes up that then also works to answer other problems that we are experiencing on the planet?

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