GIVE BEES A CHANCE
Michelle Greenwood-Brown and Rose Bailey
“Bumblebees are one of the most endearing insect visitors to any garden. Their furry, colourful bodies and clumsy flight always raise a smile, but they also do an essential job. Without their pollination services many flowers would produce no seeds, and fruit and vegetable yields would suffer.”
Despite their essential role in complex food chains, bumblebees are on the decline in Britain. Two species have become extinct in the UK since 1940. The remaining 25 species are in severe decline.
Bumblebees need flowers to feed on and places to nest. In the past 80-90 years, the UK is estimated to have lost 97% of its flower rich grassland, largely due to the pressures of more intensive agricultural practices and urban and suburban development. Some scientists argue that the use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, is harmful to bees. Air pollution, climate change and diseases being transmitted between wild and managed bees are also implicated in bumblebee decline.
What we can do
Organisations such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Save Bees and Bug Life, work with farmers and lobby politicians to adopt bee friendly policies and practices. They also run projects to improve bee habitats. But we can all do something to help bees. Domestic gardens cover over a million acres of the UK. By growing pollinator-friendly plants and avoiding pesticides we can help to halt the decline of bee populations. Plant flowering shrubs or flowers which are rich in pollen and nectar (such as foxgloves, alliums, lavender and herbs, rather than ornamental plants). If you only have a windowbox, or a few pots – these will still help provide food for bees. Try not mowing part of your lawn, if you have one, and maybe like your dandelions a little more- they are one of the first pollen-rich sources to appear in a garden- and last to go…..
Our sculpture uses tile waste from Michelle’s mosaic classes, reconstituted, unfired clay, rejected or broken ceramic pieces from her community and school projects, and various recycled items. We discussed the design with Rose’s grandsons (aged 7 and 10) who are very concerned about the future of nature. Their hands were then used to make a mould for the hands which appear on the totems, to ‘protect’ the bees. The sculpture contains, leaves, flowers and birds, as well as bees – to signify the interconnectedness of nature – all of which relies upon pollination. Whilst worried about the ‘plight of the bumblebee’, the sculpture is optimistic (rainbow theme), because if children are aware and concerned about threats to nature, there is hope that as the next generation, they will become better guardians of it.