Bees are critical to livable cities; cities can support bee health.
Beyond the honey bee’s welcome contributions to the human diet, their pollination and community-building contributions are essential to livable cities, says bee biologist Mark Winston. In addition to creating nature through pollination in the midst of what would otherwise be a lot of concrete and asphalt, beekeeping is proving to be an effective balm for the isolation that is otherwise widely reported in cities.
“Beekeepers cross religious, ethnic, cultural and economic boundaries, but they have one thing in common. They work together around their bees, but then also become friends and support each other,” he says. “By keeping bees in the city, we’re creating an economy, through the sale of honey, and we’re creating social bonds.”
A movement that brings bees into disadvantaged communities began here in Vancouver, through Hives for Humanity, and has now been picked up throughout the world, he reports. “Getting together around bees has proven to be very calming, providing a supportive community and some economic support as well.”
Municipal policies are critical in promoting the health of these vital creatures, stresses Dr. Winston, who is also the author of Bee Time, Lessons from the Hive, and co-author, with Renée Sarojini Saklikar, of Listening to the Bees. “First and maybe most important, cities must get rid of pesticides. Virtually every kind of pesticide used is harmful to bees in one way or another.”
The second shift that cities of the future can make to support a flourishing bee population, with all of the human benefits that result, is to plant more of the flowers and blossoms that bees use, he adds. In empty lots, rail rights-of-way, backyard gardens, parks and more, these plants make the city more beautiful and are also fundamental for bee health.
Considering the health of wild bees in policy decisions is equally critical, notes Dr. Winston. “Wild bees are equally important, because while mostly solitary, they create vital diversity and abundance.”
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