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Posts Tagged ‘bees’

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Photo: REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Insects are facing habitat loss across Europe, so London and other cities are taking action.

This story is for Jean, whose booth on MeadowScaping for Biodiversity I visited today at the high school’s sustainability event. Forward-thinking students at our school want this town of many lawns and too many lawn chemicals to change its pollinator-killing ways.

Charlotte Edmond at the World Economic Forum reports on how the city of London is getting serious about making bees and other important insects welcome.

“At any one time it’s estimated there are 10 quintillion insects alive. … Many of us hold no great affection for creepy crawlies, so it’s easy to overlook the crucial role they play in supporting ecosystems. Sitting at the bottom of the food web, they are also nature’s waste disposers, crucial to decomposition. Without them we would more than likely go hungry, with many crops needing pollinators to thrive.

But habitat loss and widespread use of insecticides and agrichemicals has led to insect numbers plummeting in recent years.

“In London, as with many other cities, you’re more likely to hear the buzz of cars than insects. But the UK’s capital is looking to give bugs a boost by creating an insect highway through the north-west of the city.

“A seven-mile wildflower corridor is being planted in parkland to provide a safe haven for insects. To support a range of bees and other pollinators, a mixture of seeds has been chosen.

“There has been a catastrophic loss of flower-rich grasslands in England since the 1930s, often as a result of intensive farming or redevelopment of green sites. … Recent studies have shown some species of pollinators in Britain have decreased by up to a third in the past two decades. There has also been a dip in the range of insects seen: in contrast to the sharp decline seen in some species, other insects, particularly those that [eat] crops, have become more prevalent.

“Experts are concerned by the impact the falling bug count will have. The UK government is five years into a strategy to curb pollinator loss, and is working with bodies such as Buglife to introduce more spaces to support pollinating insects. The charity is introducing a network of insect pathways throughout Britain, running through towns and countryside to connect existing wildlife areas together.

“Alongside this, it is working to create ‘urban hotspots’ for insects, transforming mown and unused areas of land by introducing shrubs, flowers and so-called bee hotels.

“Elsewhere, Norway has built a ‘bee highway’ through its capital, Oslo. And Berlin is one of a number of cities around the world to have introduced urban hives in a bid to support bee populations.

“Honey bees, bumblebees, wild bees and other pollinators are estimated to bring at least $25 billion to the European agriculture industry, ensuring pollination for most crops and wild plants.”

For more on London’s biodiversity efforts, go to the World Economic Forum site, here, where you can also find related stories.

Student-run fair to encourage town residents to use sustainable practices in their yards.

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Photo: Omari Daniel
Bees at the Lyric Hammersmith Theater in West London.

The arts are always struggling for funds, so it’s lucky that artistic people are by definition creative. In this story, some creative theater people thought up a way to help the environment while simultaneously raising a little cash for their work. It’s all part of a theater’s broad sustainability plan.

Sian Alexander writes, “As a leading producing theatre and the largest creative hub in west London, the Lyric Hammersmith welcomes around 200,000 people a year to its building, including 30,000 young people at classes and activities. We have nine Young Lyric partners based here, three resident companies, 50 permanent staff and over 500 freelancers each year – all under one roof.

“Our roof is also now a symbol of our long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability. As well as our public roof terrace, a green oasis in the heart of an urban environment, we have a green sedum roof — covered in plants — installed in 2015 during our last major capital redevelopment.

“Last year we teamed up with the local business improvement district, HammersmithLondon, to install three beehives on the roof, now home to 180,000 Buckfast honey bees. They seem to be happy here, and this summer we enjoyed a substantial honey harvest. We sell the honey in our café and at local markets, where it is a great conversation starter about our efforts to go green. …

“Bees have a critical role in food production, as around a third of the food we consume relies on pollination. The bees also help our green roof mature through pollination, and help improve air quality and biodiversity in the local area. …

“We strive to ensure our green values run through all elements of our business. For example, our building has air-source heat pumps and predominantly LED lighting; we send zero waste to landfill, working with First Mile and Scenery Salvage; our energy supply is 100% renewable electricity and green, frack-free gas; our finance and administration teams run on a paperless system; and all new staff and creative teams are given a reusable water bottle on their first day. …

“We are introducing a vegetarian and vegan specials menu in our bar and grill, visiting allotments and trying alternative foods. We are also running a stall at the local food market to engage the public on food packaging, as well as addressing food waste.”

More at Arts Professional, here.

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Photo: The Guardian
What it looked like when a swarm of bees attacked a New York City hotdog stand.

As you know, I think New York City is an endlessly unspooling entertainment reel. This adventure with swarming bees is a typical example. Wish I had seen it. The police officer in charge must have been surprised to discover that a bit of obscure training would actually come in handy someday.

As Adam Gabbatt reported at the Guardian, “Productivity came to a halt across New York City offices on Tuesday afternoon, as hordes of people eagerly followed the removal of 20,000 bees from a hotdog stand. …

“Thousands watched a Reuters livestream – the stand is located outside the news agency’s New York headquarters – and followed on Twitter as a police officer was called in to remove the bees. With a vacuum cleaner. …

“Officers from the New York police department stood guard, some more willingly than others, as one of their colleagues donned a beekeeper’s hat and approached the hotdog stand.

“The bees had gathered in a densely packed, roughly 15-square-foot clump, and the unidentified officer, who wore a white jacket, thick gloves and has a moustache, proceeded to vacuum up the bees. The bee cleansing took about 40 minutes, much of which was watched online.

“By around 3 pm, the officer, who told journalists he ‘has training,’ had removed the bulk of the bees, but many remained in the area, swarming around a selection of soft drinks displayed on the hotdog stall. …

“Andrew Coté, who runs the New York City beekeepers’ association, had answered a call from the NYPD and was watching as the bees were removed. Removal by vacuum cleaner – it was a specially adapted vacuum cleaner – was common, Coté said. He estimated there were 20,000 bees on the umbrella, but said: ‘You’ve got to count the legs and divide by six to be sure.’

“Coté said … this late-August swarm had likely occurred because of an ill-managed beehive. He said there were a number of hives within a block of the hotdog stand.

“By 3.15 pm police had re-opened the street, although a number of bees were still on the scene.” More here.

You definitely have to know what you’re doing with bees. I’m sure a transplanted Minnesota beekeeper I know in Berlin, Massachusetts, would have managed his hives better if he had set up in a city. Beekeeping is serious business, and you don’t want to be responsible for anyone with an allergy getting stung.

Video: Reuters

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In Denmark, a beekeeping program is not only beneficial to the environment but a good way for refugee workers to settle in to a new culture.

Jennifer Hattam writes at Take Part about bees atop Copenhagen’s convention center that pollinate crops, produce honey, provide employment, and help flavor a local beer.

“The honey and the beer are the fruits of the innovative project Bybi, named after the Danish word for ‘city bee.’ Its mission: to use urban beekeeping to create a greener Copenhagen, connect residents with the city around them, and bring together and employ people from diverse backgrounds, including refugees and the formerly homeless.

“Syrian beekeeper Aref Haboo is among Bybi’s small staff. He kept dozens of hives back in his home village while also working as a civil servant and agricultural consultant. Like millions of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war, Haboo made the treacherous journey to Europe, part of it smuggled in the cargo hold of a truck, leaving behind his wife and three children to find a safer place for them all to live. A year ago, he was able to reunite his family in Denmark. …

“Haboo recently helped teach a season-long apiculture course to a mixed group of around 20 Syrians, Africans, and Europeans, who produced 450 kilograms of honey from hives in a Copenhagen park. Graduates who want to continue working with bees will receive support from Bybi, and proceeds from the sale of the first course’s honey will help fund training sessions.

“ ‘A lot of our residents have difficulties getting into the Danish labor market, whether because of language issues, skills gaps, or health problems. Working with Bybi is good for them in terms of getting out to meet people and doing something constructive, something they can be proud of,’ says Simon Christopher Hansen, cultural coordinator for the Copenhagen public housing association 3B. …

“With relatively high rates of winter mortality among honeybees in Denmark, Bybi’s urban hives also help ensure that bee populations stay healthy — along with the green environment they nurture and depend on.

“In a way, [social entrepreneur Oliver Maxwell, who founded Bybi in 2010] sees the hive as a model for Bybi and for humanity. ‘We’re looking at ways we can work together that protect our communities and enrich our environment,’ he says. ‘That’s what bees do: They create bigger apples, richer strawberries; they help everything thrive.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Bybi
Beekeeping in Copenhagen helps refugees and the environment.

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Photo: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Jean Devine (left) and Jayden Pineda, 7, make a meadow at the Waltham Y.

I’m excited that today the Boston Globe caught up with my friend Jean’s terrific biodiversity-education outreach. Readers may recall that I blogged here and here about how she and Barbara Passero got started on “meadowscaping” — hoping to ween homeowners from using pesticides and herbicides that harm the environment and contribute to global warming.

Debora Almeida reports on the educators’ latest work with kids: “Swimming, crafting, and playing games are staples of day camp, but kids at the Waltham YMCA are doing something new this summer.

“They’re learning how to plant and cultivate a meadow — and why they should.

“ ‘We just want to save the world, that’s all,’ said Barbara Passero, cofounder of Meadowscaping for Biodiversity, an outdoor environmental education program for students of all ages, which has partnered with the Y for the project.

“Over the course of the summer, Passero and program leader Jean Devine are teaching children the fundamentals of meadow upkeep and the importance of planting exclusively native plants. They are the best hosts for pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and moths. In turn, the insects attract other wildlife such as birds and rabbits, building biodiversity.

“While some people’s first instinct would be to spray pesticides to protect their hard work from leaf-munching insects, Passero knows that birds will take care of the insects on their own. She also refuses to use any toxic substances around the children, who truly get their hands dirty digging in the meadow. Seth Lucas, program administrator at the Waltham Y, said kids love the activity. …

“The meadow started as a patch of weedy grass, but is in the process of becoming a 10-by-60-foot flourishing garden. Passero and Devine are setting the meadow up for success with native plants that come back year after year. The plants are self-sustaining and spread on their own.”

Such a happy story! Do read the whole thing here.

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In a Nippon article by Sakurai Shin, translated, we learn about urban bee culture in Central Tokyo.

“The urban bee farm is the work of the nonprofit Ginza Honey Bee Project, or Ginpachi, founded in March 2006 by Tanaka Atsuo.

“It started when Tanaka, who rented out space in Ginza, learned from a beekeeper that it might be possible to raise honeybees on the roof of the Kami Parupu Kaikan building. From this location, Tanaka learned, the bees could gather nectar from Hibiya Park and the grounds of the Imperial Palace, both within a radius of around three kilometers. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides and other environmental pollutants, but the Imperial Palace is relatively free of agrichemicals. In this sense, Ginza turns out to be a surprisingly good area for beekeeping. …

“In the 10 years since the Ginza Honey Bee Project began on one corner of a Ginza rooftop, the ripple effect has spread to other parts of Tokyo and far beyond. There are now more than 100 urban beekeeping projects nationwide, and more in South Korea, Taiwan, and elsewhere in Asia.

“ ‘Ten years ago, of course, we never imagined the project would have such an impact,’ Tanaka says. ‘I think it’s because people have been able to make it into their own project, reflecting local conditions and responding to local issues.’

“Tanaka also credits the honeybees themselves, emphasizing what human beings can learn from contact with these industrious insects.

“ ‘For example, when I see the bees returning to the rooftop from their flight around Ginza, I can tell from the pollen stuck to them that it’s safflower season, or the tochinoki [Japanese horse chestnut] trees are in bloom. Spending time with the bees puts us in touch with the natural world and its changes. Ginza may seem an unlikely place to be tackling environmental issues, but it’s becoming that sort of neighborhood.’ ”

More here.

This lovely story came to me by way of blogger Asakiyume.

Photo: Nagasaka Yoshiki/Nippon.com

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In parts of South Sudan, honey is providing a bit of hope for the future. Barbara Lewis reports at Reuters that the charity Honey Care Africa has invested $1 million in the country, helping farmers earn more than $75,000 from beekeeping and benefiting 400 families.

“A harvest of honey from the equatorial forests of South Sudan will help its struggling poor and, through the pollination of bees, improve the nation’s crop yields, those involved say.

“Spring production over the coming weeks is expected to deliver 60 tons, double the volume of an initial batch of exports last year to Kenya.

“South Sudan’s honey harvests had suffered because decades of fighting closed off the former main trade route through the north.

” ‘Honey production is not a panacea. We’re not trying to save the country or eliminate the conflict, but we do want to do our part,’ Madison Ayer, head of the development charity Honey Care Africa, told Reuters.

“Honey Care Africa has been working since 2013 in South Sudan, where it sees potential to collect honey from bees immune to the problems that have depleted colonies in the United States and to a lesser extent in Europe.

“The charity has worked in Kenya for a decade, but droughts can be a problem for honey-making there, so it sought to expand. …

” ‘When I get the money from the honey, I pay the school fees of my children. I buy other things like sugar, tomatoes, onions. I keep some money with me for emergencies in case my children get sick,’ Lilian Sadia James, one of the South Sudanese beekeepers working with Honey Care, says.”

More here.

Photo: David W. Cerny/Reuters

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