Locally based independent businesses with an eye on the future are contributing to a global problem which threatens to eradicate one of the world’s most powerful, living creatures. The humble bee.
One third of the global food supply is entirely reliant upon the bee population to pollinate and instigate crop growth (staple crop varieties including rice, wheat and maize are generally pollinated by the wind, rather than insects), such as fruit and vegetables, nuts, chocolate, coffee and certain herbs and spices. When you stop to think about it, we would literally go hungry, without the hard working bee.
In recent years, the bee population has been on the steady decline, with pesticides, stress and particularly, the varroa mite parasite which can develop especially when bees are shipped around the world, all weakening the population. There is also the sharp decrease in space and land required to support the bee population. All of these factors come into play, and contribute to the future of the bees.
It has been estimated (according to Global Research in California) that within the past five years, over 30% of the bee population has disappeared. If this continues, the crops that we rely upon as the human race, for our survival, face extinction. And so too, do we.
“It’s the endangered, solitary bees that we are trying to attract.”
But Bristol is aware and ready and as a city, it is clear that we are doing everything within our power within the community, to address this looming threat to the plight of the hardy bee. Not least, the campaign begins with the installation of a special one-off bee house on Clifton’s Regent Street. Local creative carpenter, Russ of Hot Soup House in Bedminster and Connie of Flower Riot both showed up to support the action.
Connie has been a keen horticulturalist and florist since she decided to return to her roots in Somerset having run away to the bright lights of Exeter to gain her degree in Philosophy. Having grown up on a flower farm in Somerset, Connie has literally come full circle and found joy in a career that literally feeds the soul. Planting specialist flowers and plants to support the exclusively designed bee box, from Russ of Hot Soup House, he explains their objective:
“It’s not actually a bee hive, it’s not the bumble bee that we’re trying to attract. It’s the endangered, solitary bees that we are trying to attract. These are a most likely to live in small holes, including pieces of straw.” Russ explains.
Connie’s hope is that these year-round blossoms will keep a steady stream of solitary bees knocking at its door (the bee box, that is). In doing so, each bee will be able to hibernate, lay their eggs, and incubate until the spring when their offspring will hatch and fly away.
“What we’re looking for in an urban environment are those varieties that are more hardy and will look after themselves. Also, bulbs and spring flowers and things that will last through the summer and into the autumn.” Connie explains.
Connie chose plant varieties including jasmine, rose campion and narcissi. If you choose varieties that have a high nectar count, chances are, the bees will literally flock to your garden (urban, or not).
“Bees are so important in the world – they do such an important job.”
“I would go for wild flower mixes, but anything that is highly scented – jasmine or honeysuckle, with high nectar and pollen content is really good for bees. I’ve planted bulbs and perennials that will come back year after year – there shouldn’t be too much maintenance involved.” Connie says.
Both Russ and Connie are dedicated to helping keep the bee population healthy, alive and thriving as Connie says:
“Bees are so important in the world – they do such an important job. The mind boggles to think if something happens, just literally how important they are to our economy, which I don’t think people think about.”
Russ spent many hours designing and building the perfect abode for all solitary bees in search of a home. In doing so, he also realised the scale of the problem faced by the bee population today, and hopes that this will encourage people to take steps to help the issue, in their own homes and gardens within the city, too.
“I tried to incorporate as many bee-friendly structures as I could. Making sure there are no sharp splinters, sanding everything really carefully. I’ve set the logs into a really sandy concrete mix which also helps. It should have been quite straightforward, but there were a few complications. To actually build it, took around two weeks.” Russ explains.
Russ has worked on many creative commissions including building stage sets for Glastonbury Festival and Love Saves the Day. He is in the process of developing workshops for creatives within Bristol, who might want space to develop a project – be it in carpentry, illustration, print making or even guitar building.
Russ and Connie were both there for the installation on Regent Street, and they have high hopes for the future:
“With a bit of maintenance it’ll just grow and grow. If a bee moves in, it’ll close up in one of the holes, lay its eggs, and in the spring, you’ll see them hatch and fly out.” Russ says.
To find out more about Russ’ carpentry and how he can help you to build your own bee box for your garden, head to: @HotSoupHouse on Twitter.
To find out more about Connie at Flower Riot, head to: www.flower-riot.co.uk
For advice on the best bee-friendly flowers and plants for your garden, head to: www.rhs.org.uk