Walking in the heights and plateaus of Barbagia is a privilege I benefit with sincere gratitude. And if everywhere spring sweetens even the blackest days, here in central Sardinia, I assure you, it is an enchantment. A dip in the heart of the land: the buzz of bees and bumblebees comes to me clearly and unmistakably, the same that I feared as a child, and that now fills me with happiness.
I haven’t heard them work for years; in the end, I think, this pandemic brought me some joy. A joy, however, soon polluted by a punch to the heart: the cheerful hum, in this pristine corner of Europe, is the exception. The bees, all the pollinators, disappear, exterminated by our greed, by the necessity of everything and immediately that leads us to spray the fields with poison in order to obtain the maximum yield, without worrying at all about the price we all pay.
If we add habitat loss and climate crisis, that’s it, it should come as no surprise that Desirée, who lives in Caselle, overlooking the Alps, has “seen some of them in the mountains, but nothing more”.
While waiting for the Farm to Fork strategy (the part of the European Green Deal that should allow the EU to make a real contribution to the sustainability objectives) and the Biodiversity strategy on May 20 (among other things, World Bee Day, a coincidence?) we want to suggest you a few small actions that can help preserve bees and repopulate the colonies, one bit at the time.
The first thing to do is to sign the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) #SaveBeesandFarmers, which asks the Commission to gradually eliminate synthetic pesticides in Europe, restore biodiversity in agricultural areas, and to use CAP subsidies to start EU agriculture on the path of agroecology.
Sign here, it costs nothing and does a lot.
Planting flowers that bees like
One of the biggest threats to bees is the lack of a habitat where they can find nutritious food, especially in cities where green areas are rare. No need to have an entire garden or a vegetable garden, you can plant flowers in pots and planters to leave on the balcony or in the condominium courtyard. Their favorite plants are calendula, tulip, daisy, lavender, sainfoin, phacelia, borage, thyme, buckwheat, sunflowers, mallow, marigold, annual fennel, rosemary, dill, parsnip, coriander, alfalfa, and the list is still long.
Among these, choose the native plants of your area with a preference for flowers with single buds such as marigolds, tulips, and daisies that produce more pollen making it easier for bees to reach it. You should also try to have something that blooms all year round, so prepare a calendar that includes flowers in spring, summer, and autumn.
Do not use chemicals in the garden or garden
Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and especially neonicotinoids (of which traces are still found in European fields despite the ban of 18), are harmful to bees as they affect the central nervous system causing paralysis and death. Please avoid treating your corner of nature with synthetic products. Prefer organic products and natural solutions such as compost. Then use the beneficial insects that keep parasites away, such as ladybugs and praying mantises.
Buy honey and beeswax from local beekeepers
Buying organic honey and other products from a beekeeper in your area is an excellent way to support an activity that brings benefits to the local community. In addition, you will give a signal of interest to the organic beekeeper who will be even more enticed to carry out an ethical, bee, and environmentally friendly beekeeping.
Often these insects make a surplus of honey, so they won’t notice if we take some for ourselves. Beeswax is used to coat honeycombs and is cut by the beekeeper to get honey or hollowed by bees in winter – in both cases it is discarded, so it would be a waste not to use it.
Purchase local, organic and seasonal food
This advice may seem out of focus from the discussion, but in reality, it is very important. By purchasing organic fruit and vegetables, you will avoid financing industrial agriculture that uses synthetic chemicals and pesticides, damaging the soil and killing pollinating insects. If it is local and in season, then, you will be sure to have helped our bee friends in their search for pollen and nectar to feed themselves. And have supported those who are committed to producing our food with attention and care for the environment.
Build a hotel for bees
There are not only honey bees but also many other solitary bee species that are equally fundamental for pollination. These solitary bees do not live in colonies but nest within small spaces such as hollow stems or holes in the wood. With deforestation and the consequent loss of habitat, these small insects struggle to find spaces to build a “home”. That’s why build one in their place to host them in your garden, vegetable garden, courtyard, or balcony. All you need to do is create a wooden frame and insert pieces of wood inside which you have made holes, alternating with small twigs and / or bamboo canes.
Plant trees for bees
Did you know that bees take most of their nectar from trees? When a tree blooms, it supplies hundreds – if not thousands – of flowers to feed on. Trees are not only a great source of food for bees, but also an essential habitat. The leaves of the trees and the resin provide the material for the nesting of the bees, while the natural cavities of the wood are excellent shelters. If you have a little more space, you can fight deforestation and strengthen the bees’ habitats by planting fruit trees that will provide them with both nectar and a place to take refuge.
Let the grass grow
Neglect your garden a little! I know, that said, it does not seem like good advice but try to leave some corner of the garden a little disheveled. The variety of flowers and the tall grass will make bees happy.
Give the thirsty bees a drink
Well yes, even bees are thirsty. To get them back from their tireless pollination work, fill a shallow bowl with clean water and place pebbles and stones inside so that they break the surface of the water. The bees will land on the stones for a few long and refreshing sips of water. Bees like to share information, so if you keep your water source constant the local pollinators will come to visit you.
Get informed and share
Find out about the problem and look for new ways to help bee friends – there are many books and documentaries about it, and share this information with anyone who may be interested! You could also build your bee hotels or bee-friend gardens together.
Together on World Bee Day!
World Bee Day is celebrated on Wednesday 20 May. Slow Food launches a challenge for the occasion: let’s promote solidarity together with bees! Through the hashtag – #BeeFriend – help us raise public awareness of the importance of saving bees and other pollinators.
On the occasion of World Bee Day, on May 20, we, therefore, ask you to help us spread the signature collection for the ECI #SaveBeesandFarmers. If we collect at least one million signatures, the Commission will be obliged to respond to our requests.
So #BeeFriend “Save bees and farmers” online!
Take a photo and dedicate a few words to our bee friends: how do you help bees? How important is it for you to protect them? And so on…
We have prepared a frame for Facebook that you are free and very encouraged to use.
On the occasion of World Bee Day, publish your photo on social media, using the hashtag #BeeFriend, and tag us.
Together, we can save the bees!
Curated by Michela Marchi and Desirée Colacino