Thursday, March 27, 2008

Save a Bumblety Bee!

Since my recently undertaken pollination duties with the Lemon Drop chili pepper plant, I think I've begun to identify with our little bee friends. Lord knows, I have a new appreciation of their endless efforts on our behalf.

Bees have always fascinated me. They really are a rather remarkable insect and, for humans, a very necessary one. We're told bees are responsible for every third bite of our food. Yeah. Even that big honkin' pizza you drooled over. The bees have to pollinate the grain for the flour for the crust. And the tomato blossoms for the sauce. And the blossoms on assorted veggies like sweet peppers and hot peppers and practically everything else you might pile on a pizza.

Okay. They don't do the anchovies but neither do I. And, yeah, they don't do the other meats but they DO do the clover and alfalfa the meat critters eat, as do the cow and goat critters, so we can have cheese.

Need I remind you, they also pollinate the coffee blossoms and the cocoa blossoms? And the hops for beer and the grain and 'taters for booze? I don't know if he was right but Einstein figured humans might last -- ohhhh -- four years if the bees disappeared. And, by golly, if we couldn't eat chocolate and cheese and drink coffee and wine and whiskey, life would be a bit more drab, for sure.

All of which is why it probably wouldn't hurt us a bit to be concerned about the serious depletion of the bee population over the last couple of years. Click Discover magazine for an excellent article covering the subject. In fact, if you type save and bees into Google, you'll get 681,000 links to the problem.

Some of those links will take you to the Haagen-Dazs site -- namely, Help the Honey Bees. It is not only a graphically enchanting place, it's fun. See that little bee critter at the beginning of this entry? I got to design it and then the nice people let me download it to keep.

On the other hand, the above photo is one I took myself but I'll be durned if I remember which plant that ol' bumblety bee was working. I just wanted to make it clear that honey bees aren't the only ones doing the hard work lugging all that pollen around and distributing it properly. Nor are the honey bees the only ones who need help. Bumble bees are having problems too.

There's a lot more information at The Great Sunflower Project. If you register a free account with them, you will be joining a nationwide project sponsored by the San Francisco State University, thereby becoming a "citizen scientist." Just think of it as joining a respected profession without having to take all those years of training. They'll even send you some free wild sunflower seeds to plant. If everyone plants the same kind of sunflower, then keeps track of the visiting bees, the Project folks will know a lot more about what areas are in trouble and which are not.

Don't be alarmed if you don't have garden space. The wild sunflowers are comparatively dainty, only getting about 3 feet tall. You can grow them in pots, sort of like petunias.

If you have visions of endless counting of kajillions of bees, put the thought right out of your mind. The reporting couldn't be simpler. You'll only be asked to count bees for 30 minutes twice a month ... and you can stop once 5 bees show up, even if they all arrive in the first 5 minutes. The Project helpfully emails you the twice-monthly reminders and you can make your report online so you don't even have to buy a stamp.

Sounds to me like a heckuva deal. Help out the bees that help us and get some right purty flowers for the effort. Not to mention the continued supply of coffee and chocolate.


John Bailey said...

There ain't much I won't do to secure my supply of coffee, Dee. Chocolate, well, it wouldn't harm me too much if it was in much shorter supply. Actually, looking at the waistline, it wouldn't harm me at all!

The Old Guy said...

And as if that weren't enough trouble, the bats, who keep us from being bitten by bugs, are dying out from a (possibly human-transmitted) virus or fungus. See New Scientist for the story.

bonnie said...

I can't say I've ever seen a bumble bee like you have in the excellent picture. Though I have seen bees at the sage.

Jo said...

I signed up for the sunflower project, Dee. Thanks for finding that for us.

Mage And George said...

Every spring we have a terrible time with bee's here. Not in hives, they burrow into our units, and we have a beekeeper come and take them out at a giant cost to the unit owners.

Anonymous said...

I always feel kindly toward bees, even when I remember that honey is just bee spit. kdip

Julie said...

We saw a show on bees and now lee is stockpiling honey by picking up an extra packet every day that he goes to starbux! He's one wacky dude. I'm a tad more worried about every other kind of food. But speaking of food, I've been in the mood for something lemony and that recipe looks just awesome. Might make it for a thing on Friday. Also jumping over to sign up for the sunflower project.

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