Thursday, 9 October 2014

Can cities save our wild bees?

Imagine you’re a bee. You’ve spent winter in your tiny underground nest. The light levels change, signalling the arrival of spring and out you come, hungry – but there’s no food. What should be a blossoming garden is all tight buds. The end.

I love bees. Everyone I know loves bees. And everyone knows bees are on the decline. But could it be that cities will come to their rescue? That question has fascinated me since I first came across the Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI), a nationwide research collaboration with the singular aim of exploring the lives of bees and other pollinators.

Digging deeper into the IPI’s various projects, I discovered the Urban Pollinators Project – a research collaboration spread across nine cities in the UK that wants to find out as much as possible about the pollinators that are gradually moving into our cities. These, after all, form the bedrock of our food supply wherever we live, and their absence would leave our daily diets drastically impoverished.

We are, unfortunately, used to hearing about “bee decline” these days, but the term is usually reserved for honeybees – alongside “hive collapse”. The IPI, however, talks of bee decline in far greater brush strokes. It turns out that, alongside honeybees – the only bees that actually make honey - and bumblebees (pretty much the extent of my bee trivia prior to making this film), there are more than 250 species of wild and solitary bees living among us: in trees, unused mouse holes, bricks and hotels. More on the hotels later. And increasingly, they’re moving into urban environments.

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