The honey bee.
Such an amazing little creature. The impact of these little beings is substantial, not only in my life but the world, and it has become somewhat of a symbol for me. It’s my compass if you will. Whenever I doubt myself, I revert my thoughts back to this beautiful creature and the reminder that it truly is the small things that make the biggest difference.
I just thought I’d write a story. I won’t even begin to explain the struggles I’ve had this week with writing, so I am just going to roll with this. Instead of ‘be aggressive’, I’m going with ‘bee authentic, bee bee authentic’!
We’ve owned the home we currently reside in for nearly 14 years and I have always felt the need to have a garden. I acknowledge that it has been ingrained in my genes for generations and the greatest influence on this trait, is my family. My grandparents had gardens, my mom has gardens, and she told me stories of my great grandparents and other family members doing the same. I was fortunate enough to have about 14 years with my great grandmother on my mom’s side, and I grew up visiting her while enjoying tea and cookies and her deep discussions about her flower magazines and catalogs. She’d often employ any grandchild willing to weed her amazing flower beds and pay them in tea and cookies with a side of cash. She was quite the lady.
Besides the fact that gardening is an integral part of me, I wanted my children to have the same experiences I had growing up. When my kids were much younger, all the rage was feeding kids organic foods and staying as close to organic as possible. I, as you have probably figured out by now, began reading about the organics market because the cost of anything fresh and having the seal of ‘organic’ was astronomical to me.
During that time, I managed to stumble upon some dirty secrets of how some of these companies were being caught using pesticides and herbicides that had been outlawed over 50 years ago. In that moment, I realized that if I wanted to feed my kids truly organic, then I’d have to grow it myself. Let’s just say that I’d never truly considered the impact of what goes into the mass production of food at that point either. Once I grew a garden, my understanding began to change. Now, for time saving purposes, I know that there are a great many more factors involved in the quality control process, but I just wanted to keep it short, so on with the story.
Time to get dirty
Clem and I paid for a pile of dirt (as a farm girl, who the hell buys dirt?), and constructed a garden. If you knew me and from whence I hail, you’d know that bigger is always better and that only a football field sized garden would satisfy my wants and needs. That said, I don’t live on a farm, and the size we made, is what I had to work with. I am not the only family member who has ‘the bigger is always better’ affliction when it comes to gardening, and it’s truly laughable when you consider how outrageous we can be about it. We’re not feeding all of Canada, but we probably could! Please don’t encourage us. Anyway, Clem and I were very pleased with ourselves, and very excited to have a garden of our own.
Our yard is quite large compared to today’s standards, and it takes some time to care for. Clem and I love to cut grass, and you’ll often see us trying to get ahead of one another, just to mow the lawn. That, is another ingrained family trait that I inherited from my grandmother. With a big yard, we often grow an impressive crop of dandelions each year. I’m not proud to say, that before I had my light bulb moment, I didn’t appreciate the hornets and other potential stinging creatures that would inhabit the yard during dandelion season. That said, one year and one year only, Clem used a dandelion bar.
I hated using any of that junk because the kids, dog, Clem and I loved being out in the yard, bare feet and all and having that chemical on the ground wasn’t a comforting feeling. I read labels, and it really didn’t make me feel any better about using it. Needless to say, I never used anything ever again, and decided that we would just pull out what we could within an area we’d inhabit and eventually they all just went away around July some time.
Enter the honey bee
In our first gardening season, our yard was the craziest place, FULL of honey bees, butterflies and hornets, gleefully working away in the beautiful day time sun. My neighbors despised the vast yellow sea of dandelions and the little hard workers that inhabited it. The buzz was one of absolute horror to those who were deathly terrified, but I have to admit, that first gardening season I had was astonishing. I had more tomatoes then I could ever imagine and ended up making an obscene amount of salsa and canned tomatoes. We had zucchini and peas and so many other beautiful goodies that year. My kids fell in love with the pea and cucumber patch, and could tell the difference between the taste of a garden tomato or carrot and a store bought one. Yes, there is a difference. Even my neighbors enjoyed the bounty of our splendor. Yes, I believe in being neighborly and spreading the wealth.
Each year I kept planting and growing and trying new and exciting things. We all looked forward to the bounty of fall and pouted over the return to store bought produce when the fresh stuff ran out. As my years of gardening went on, we had some decent yields, but I started to notice after a couple of years, that I was getting much less despite adding the fresh manure and doing all the proper gardening maintenance.
My plants would flourish, but it would soon become disappointing during harvest time. I began looking for reasons as to why I wasn’t doing as well and it wasn’t until I started to pay attention to what creatures were frequenting my garden, that I noticed I was mainly seeing hornets and hardly any bees. I’d also began to notice, that the mason bees I’d had in abundance previously, were disappearing and the large bumble bees that used to frequent my yard became few and far between. My yellow sea of dandelions wasn’t buzzing like it used to. What the hell?
Exit the honey bee
I bought loads of flowers (think $300 or more spent), even growing my own from seed, in hopes of attracting more of my beautiful bees (they much prefer the dandelions), but to no avail. There were many times that I’d actually find bees curled up, twitching and dying on my sidewalk, and year after year I’d encounter this more. I finally clued in, the smell in the neighborhood would be the ‘candlestick in the library used by Colonel Mustard’ was the reason I’d find these poor creatures dying on the road and on the sidewalks. It took me a while to equate the two, as self-pollinating my garden (we are nowhere near as good as pollinators, just FYI) had become my priority in the hopes of getting a better yield, than paying attention to the entire yard. You can call me crazy or a bunch of other names, but that was when I realized the impact that we have on everything, and it all started with my disappearing honey bees.
Last summer, I had a neighbor tell me exactly the same thing. Thankfully, she no longer uses chemical weed control methods and has been trying to get people to stop, but it just seems to be picking up. If you do your homework, ‘they’ (government, chemical companies or otherwise) are not being transparent in equating these chemicals with the dying bee population. I am going to go out on a limb and say that yes, this is affecting them, not to mention, what the hell is it doing to us that you’re not coming out and saying? Wow, that also feels good to put that out there. Feels good to ‘bee’ authentic today. The point is, we need to start asking questions and demanding transparency. This shouldn’t be offensive, and if it is, maybe we need to consider why that is? Isn’t asking questions the responsible thing to do?
It’s just my opinion, but manicured lawns are overrated. I often wonder if the folks hosing their yards down with this shit, prefer their cancer or disease of choice manicured as well. Yes, I said that. Before you pummel me, perhaps you could do a bit of reading about the chemicals contained within that container before telling me I’m completely wrong. I feel that some people are susceptible to this stuff and saying that there isn’t a possibility of it causing grievous harm, is very unscientific. It felt good to write that. I don’t want to make blanket statements because that isn’t smart either. I want to encourage people to educate themselves, and also aim to see the bigger picture.
It’s time to ‘bee’ me
Why am I telling you this story? Well, it’s one of the things that’s lead me to become the hopeful pessimist. I am pessimistically hopeful that one day, people will consider what folks like me have to say instead of becoming belligerent and violent. We are the honey bees in society. I am not violent, I do not wish to be belligerent and I do not feel that the whole story is being told nor being fought for to be understood. We ‘bees’ seem to disappear after people don’t agree with our thoughts and no one seems to give a shit. To me, this should be alarming. Having one opinion, accepted by all and never questioned, is a very alarming thing.
Not long after I started to focus on the loss of my honey bees, my child became sick with cancer. Not long after that, my sister. Not so long ago, my neighbor disclosed to me that they had been letting themselves in and spraying our yard with some of these chemical weed control sprays while we were away. I am not saying that this is why my child got sick, but I must admit, it has crossed my mind in addition to a very short list of potential culprits. Not so long ago, I hadn’t any thoughts or reasons to question the origins of this insidious disease but now, I am beginning to formulate some ideas and hypotheses. I am in no way blaming anyone for my child being sick, but it makes one wonder. Especially, when many others start coming out of the woodwork and bravely saying that they think they have been affected by something similarly too. Strength (of all kinds) in numbers, makes deniability much less credible.
Honey bees are one of the many ‘canaries in the mine’ in the world. My child, my sister, are also these ‘canaries’. I am hopeful that many of the others who are like me, can and will continue to tell their stories and share their thoughts without being snuffed out by those who are blissfully unaffected. I hate to say it, don’t be like the old me, or you’re going to end up being just like the new me and that isn’t exactly an exciting or positive place to be.
I often think, if only these atrocities started and stopped at manicured lawns…