2016 was awful. Simply the worst. Whilst the world happily pulled itself apart I started my PhD on bee behaviour at Royal Holloway University. Surprisingly this did not catch the headlines. However, 6 months into my PhD I believe that I have found at least one reason to be optimistic about the world.
When I say, I work with bees the responses that I get are typically:
“Bees are important, aren’t they?”
“I hear the bees are in trouble, aren’t they?”
“If we lose the bees we won’t survive, will we?”.
Bees are incredibly important. Roughly a third of food worldwide requires bee pollination and best of all bees don’t charge for this service. If bees did go extinct it wouldn’t be the end of the human race as lots of crops do not require insect pollination. However, the economic and social ramifications would be great and this is evident even today in areas that no longer have wild bees to pollinate crops.
What I have learnt in my PhD so far is firstly that people are AWARE of the plight of the bee and more importantly people CARE about what happens to the bees. People down the pub, friends and family and people in general regularly ask me “What can I do to help the bees?” and “What flowers should I plant in my garden to attract the bees?”
Policy makers also appear to be following suit. Regardless of your opinion on pesticides such as Neonicotinoids the fact that there is a current moratorium on the use of three pesticides in Europe and a total ban of some in Canada and France shows that policy makers do at least consider bees.
Charities such as the Bumblebee conservation trust, various bee keeping groups, Green Peace and the #Savethebee movement as well as popular science writing from academics such as Dave Goulson have created a buzz about bee conservation.
The importance of this cannot be downplayed. Historically conservation works when people care. People’s compassion saved the mountain gorilla, brought the white rhino back from the brink and means that the Giant Panda is no longer an endangered species.
So 2016 happened and it was awful and so far 2017 has not been that much better but despite all the animosity in the world right now I take joy in the fact that in my limited experience, people do seem to care about what happens to ‘the bees.’ The caring nature of people could and will help “save the bees” and this will ultimately “help the humans”.