Lições de vida com apicultores - acostume-se com os insetos em sua salada

Lições de vida com apicultores - acostume-se com os insetos em sua salada
A recent report has highlighted the enormous pressures on our ecosystems. We need to make fundamental changes, writes Siobhan Maderson, so here are some tips from beekeepers

For many people, the past year has led to an increased appreciation for our fragile natural world. This is important because, alongside Covid, we are also facing a global climate and biodiversity crise.

A recent report by IPBES (the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services) highlighted enormous pressures on land and marine ecosystems and concluded that more than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. The authors call for fundamental changes to how we all live, to reverse these existential threats.

One recommendation from the report is that we should listen more to indigenous people, so that we can learn from their relationship with the natural world to help us solve environmental crises. We can also learn a great deal from those who work closely with nature and are able to observe its processes in detail.

In my research and interviews with beekeepers, I found that beekeeping changes how people see and relate to their environment.

Beekeepers talk of “seeing like a bee”. One beekeeper I spoke with noted that “part of the psyche of people who work with insects is that they are very observant, and passionate about their environment”. This passion leads many beekeepers to change parts of their lives to better help bees and the wider environment.

Here are the main lessons I’ve learned from my time spent researching and working with beekeepers.

Go wild in the garden

Beekeepers recognise that an untidy garden is a wildlife haven and advise letting a little mess into our outdoor spaces. Some beekeepers told me how they’ve stopped mowing their lawns altogether.

This approach is encouraged by scientists, along with the charity Buglife, which is developing a national network of B-lines – insect pathways through the UK’s towns and countryside that are rich in wildflower forage and habitat. Beekeepers will also make sure nutritious plants are available throughout the year – including snowdrops, lavender and asters – for their bees e other pollinators such as bumblebees, hoverflies and wasps. Ivy is also an important late-season forage source, so don’t pull it down.

But be aware of “greenwashing”. Plants may be advertised as good for bees when they have been treated with hazardous pesticides – so make sure you check how they’ve been grown. In my experience, UK beekeepers avoid using any chemicals in their gardens, as they are all too aware of the damage they cause. In many other countries, and in the EU, domestic and municipal use of garden chemicals has been banned.

Whatever you do, don’t pave over your front garden or put down artificial turf. Both of these lead to less habitat for wildlife. If you must park your car on a hard surface at home, add in climbing plants and hedges to absorb CO2 and provide forage for insects.

Learn about your neighbourhood

Beekeepers often work in one area for years – sometimes even for generations. These years of experience in one place show them what’s growing, and what’s living in their area, and what has changed over time.

Strengthening our connection to – and our knowledge about – our local area has lots of advantages. It’s good for our mental health and happiness and can help us know what’s happening in our local environment – whether that’s a garden, park, woodland or beach.

Phenology – knowing the seasonal cycles of plants and animals – provides valuable information for scientists studying the effects of climate change. You don’t need to keep bees to learn these things. Anyone can start collecting, e contributing, information about local areas by recording sightings of flora and fauna you may see on your daily outings.

Pay attention

Beekeeping is often a starting point for deeper learning about the environment. Some beekeepers, por exemplo, go on to learn about botany, which helps them know what to plant to provide food and habitat for their bees.

Unlike beekeepers, many of us aren’t really aware of the differences between honeybees and other species of bee. Many bee species are solitary, and have smaller foraging ranges. Understanding the needs of different species can help make sure the environment is healthy for all pollinators – not just honeybees.

Don’t pave over your front garden or put down artificial turf – both reduce available habitat for wildlife

In some parts of the UK, particularly in urban areas, there are now too many honeybees and not enough forage for them or for the wider pollinator community. Some beekeepers are now decreasing the number of colonies they keep, to support all pollinators by decreasing pressure on environmental resources.

Think global, act local

If we want to live in a world that is good for pollinators, as well as for the rest of us, big changes are needed in our environment and in our food system. This is why many beekeepers change their diet and their shopping, eating more locally grown vegetables that aren’t treated with pesticides.

Being willing to buy fruit and vegetables that may have the occasional insect living in them is better for us and for nature. To live more harmoniously with the natural world, we need to relax about larvae in the lettuce and slugs in the spinach.

Siobhan Maderson is a postdoctoral research fellow and associate lecturer in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University. This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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