Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Hums Along

            August is a bee-loud season.
            We see them everywhere by this stage of the season.
            On the butterfly bush in front of the house. On the Autumn Joy sedum  (second pic) just coming into flower in the last two weeks.
            When we eat breakfast on weekend mornings in the perennial garden, we see them rushing through the black-eyed susans and the flowering mint (third photo). Bees particularly like wildflowers and native plants. The mint grows wild all over our garden, wherever I don't remove it, and the bees rush through the thick patches of fuzzy-blooming mint as if someone has given them the order to double-time through the day. It's amazing they keep out of each other's way. Each bee zooms through every blossom every other bee has already visited. 
            Are they all getting something? Is every pollen seed, every particle, a valuable addition to the health of the hive?
            The bees spend more time among the wilder plantings, but they're not snobs. They visit the potted ornamentals as well, dipping into the orange centers of the marigolds. And, remarkably (see photo) sampling the interiors of some two-toned pink pansies (bottom photo) that have been blooming in exactly the same place since some time in April. 
            Unfortunately, of course, bees aren't really 'everywhere' these days, and their numbers have suffered frightening declines.
            Two days ago, Aug. 16, I am told by an organization called Friends of Earth, was Honey Bee Day. For a couple of years now, since the beginning of the extinction scare that came be called "hive collapse syndrome," scientists and environmentalists have been calling attention to the role played by honey bees in our food production. Fruits, nuts and grains depend upon the fertilization of crops by bees and other pollinators.
            A sense of crisis propelled research into a complex of factors that were causing the radical die-off in bee colonies. One factor these studies isolated is the effect of 'neonicotinoid' (or 'neonic') pesticides as a key contributor to bee declines. Neonics are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine.
            "Neonics aren’t just harming bees," the Friends of the Bees say in a recent post. "They also hurt birds, butterflies, reptiles, earthworms and soil microbes essential to healthy ecosystems and food production. Just one seed coated in neonics is enough to kill a songbird. ...Scientists around the globe are calling for immediate regulatory action to restrict neonics to stop what some are calling a second 'Silent Spring.'”   
            Here's the group's website. 
            The Friends of Earth are urging people to write letters to newspapers to put pressure on government to restrict the use of this relatively new pesticide. "Thanks to the efforts of people like you, our campaign to save the bees is gaining momentum." they say. "Last month, you and thousands of others wrote letters to President Obama asking him to push for stronger action to save bees."

The link to their 'how to' page on writing to newspapers is here:
            Even if they weren't central to keeping us fed -- no bees, no blueberries, to take one summertime example -- bees are an essential part of our world. We have a common interest with bees. Neither one of us can happily survive without summer, food, and flowers.
            Not only do they help keep our bodies alive, they buzz in some part of our mind or spirit that would not be the same without them. Poet W.B. Yeats coined the phrase "the bee-loud glade" in his poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." Here it is:

       I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

        And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

        Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

        And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

        And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

        Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

        There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

        And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

        I will arise and go now, for always night and day

        I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

        While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

        I hear it in the deep heart’s core. 

          I think whenever we hear, or see, bees working in a flower patch, we have a little peace there.