Image credit: The Guardian
20,000 honeybees released: great news, but why such big news?
Anyone who has spent time campaigning on environmental issues will know that it can be hard to get the general public engaged with the plight of an endangered species, or worried about pollution. We all lead busy lives, and sometimes the environment plays second fiddle to economics, politics or even TV reality shows when it comes to public attention. So what is it about honeybees that has so strongly captured our collective imagination? Ever since Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was first identified, companies, celebrities and ordinary citizens alike have been falling over themselves to help our furry pollinating friends. Whether it's the Obamas taking up beekeeping, Haagen Daz's promotion of break dancing bee boys, or yours truly taking some first steps as a beginner beekeeper, there definitely does seem to be something about the bee crisis that lifts it above the usual trickle of environmental disaster stories. But what is it?
The latest news on the bee front was a high profile article in the Guardian last week about the return of honeybees to the world-famous Kew Gardens. Having lost their colonies to CCD last year, the folks at Kew are now releasing 20,000 honeybees back into the gardens (the number sounds impressive - it's actually just two hives worth...). This release is part of a broader honeybee campaign by Jordans Cereals called "Big Buzz". Here's more from The Guardian:
The honeybees at Kew are part of Jordans Cereals' Big Buzz campaign which also includes a give-away of 30,000 bee-friendly lavender and rosemary plants and 5,000 packs of seeds – equivalent to around 35 million wildflowers. The cereal company, which has a nature-friendly farming scheme, is calling on the Highways Agency and local councils to make publicly owned land more bee-friendly and plans to teach children about the value of bees through exhibitions.
Annette Dalton, horticultural manager at Kew Gardens, said: "We want to do our bit to help the British honeybee and we hope this will show visitors to the Gardens the important interaction between plants and insects. Without pollinators like bees, plants would not set seed..."
Undoubtedly this is a vital and important effort that deserves the attention it is getting. As the campaign notes, without bees our food supplies would be in severe danger. But I'd be interested to know how CCD has managed to garner so much attention so quickly, while issues such as peak oil or climate change have taken years to creep up the news agenda.
Is it simply the immediacy of the threat? The cuteness of bees? The skill of campaigners? Or is it the (relatively) simple nature of the story and its potential fixes, when compared to complex issues like climate change? After all, we're much more willing to plant some lavender and buy some honey than we are to give up our cars or face stiffer energy taxes. I'd love to hear what readers think in the comments below - how can we take the success of CCD campaigning and apply it to the wider environmental challenges we face?
More on Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder
Save the Bees! Grow Garden Plants Honey Bees Love
White House Garden to Feature Bee Hives Too
Installing a Bee Hive: A Nervous Beginners Experience
Blogger Writes about Colony Collapse Disorder in his Own Back Yard
Saving the Bees
Photo Essay: Bees and Bee Keepers in Crisis