Friday, July 12, 2013

Vancouver Kids Respond to Oregon Bumble Bee Tragedy

 On Monday I lead a session at the Creative Remix Summer Camp at Moberly. The theme was health, so we studied three plants and their relationships to birds or bugs: yarrow for ladybugs, lavender for bees, and nasturtiums for hummingbirds. We made lemon balm and lavender lemonade sweetened with honey, fashioned head bands out of yarrow, and mixed chopped nasturtiams into cream cheese to make a healthy snack. We put lavender and plantain in our shoes to give ourselves a spa treatment.

When I gave my little talk about what keeps bees and hummingbirds healthy, I focused on the need for clean water and clean flowers. I told the tragic story of  what happened in a parking lot in Oregon when the linden trees were sprayed with neonicotinoids. (The number of bees thought to be killed are doubled since the article was written.) People were horrified to find thousands of dead bumble bees on the ground, some of them still clinging to the linden blossom they were pollinating when the pesticides were sprayed. All this carnage because people don't want honey dew from aphids on their cars.

 I explained how aphids are a natural part of our ecosystem. I told them how last week the artichokes in the herb garden were covered with aphids, but I saw a finch feeding off them in the early morning sun. Ladybugs were laying their eggs on the leaves of the artichoke. This week the aphids are completely gone.

The children were somber and silent. I apologized for telling them such a sad story and encouraged them to write messages for the bees. They practiced drawing the parts of the bees and then it was time for me to leave. I felt badly all the rest of the day, the darkness of the story seeping into my mind and souring my day. Moberly artist in residence Melanie Schambach gathered the materials for the campers to make these fabulous wooden messages to hang on the trees around the garden.

 I came back today to take photographs of the messages. They touched my heart and filled me with hope. These kids expressed the anger and frustration I feel when I think about all those dead bees and the many millions of native bees we have most likely lost due to pesticide use that didn't make the media.

So there you go. Get to know the bees in your back yard. Give them clean water and organic flowers. Tell the government to stop the use of neonics. Make your own messages sing out loud and clear.

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