This post is the third and final guest post from one of the guest tutors on the rewilding apprenticeship I am running this summer. This entry is from the lovely Brigit Strawbridge. I first met Brigit a short while after she wrote a fabulous review for my first book The Medicine Garden back in early 2010. Brigit invited me to give a series of talks on the top deck of her Big Green Bus at the Malvern Spring Gardening show. Despite the rainy windy weather outside it was cosy and fun on the bus. We have been friends ever since and I am really delighted that she will be coming to share her great knowledge with us on the apprenticeship.
I have to admit to being just a little obsessed with bees. In fact it’s probably fair to say I’m quite ‘bee’sotted. Bees have fascinated and enchanted me since my childhood, but it is only since the media started reporting on bee decline some years back that I fully appreciated the magnitude of their importance as pollinators – and how much I had always taken these amazing little creatures for granted.
Since then, I have been campaigning, talking and writing to raise awareness of the importance of bee diversity, the ways different species access and pollinate different flowering plants and the myriad reasons for the declines in bee diversity, range and population. I firmly believe that if we get it right for bees we will, in turn, get it right for all life on earth.
My approach when I first started looking into this issue was to focus on the
importance of bees to the human food chain and the pesticides that were contributing, in part, to their decline. I read, watched and digested everything I could get my hands on, learning more and more each year till both my head and my home were full to bursting with information: facts and figures; names of bees; types of pesticides; scientific reports; lists of this and that; and goodness knows what else.
This was all well and good, but in my rush to assimilate the kind of information I thought I needed to help me understand and pass on what exactly was going wrong, I almost missed out on understanding the most important thing of all – i.e. the bees themselves, their beauty, their behaviour and their intrinsic worth.
Once this dawned upon me everything began to change as a whole new and incredible world began to unfold…..
Instead of reading books and spending time researching on the computer I now started to spend more and more time outside watching and listening to bees. I learned to recognise certain species and individuals by the sounds of their different buzzes; came to know what time of day I might be likely to find certain bees on certain plants; worked out how to tell male bumblebees from female bumblebees; could hear with my eyes closed when bumblebees were collecting pollen from the welsh poppies in my garden rather than aquilegia growing next to them; and began to guess from the shape, colour and size of certain flowers which bee (or other pollinator) I might to expect to collect pollen from that flower. It soon became obvious that I was learning things from the bees that I could never have learned from books.
I became more and more interested in the interaction between bees and flowering plants, which in turn led me to be more curious about the way the two must have co-evolved and adapted, physiologically and behaviourally, over the millennia. This, in its turn, reminded me of the awe and wonder I had felt as a child each and every time I made a connection between one aspect of the natural world and another. I was essentially, through the bees, beginning the process of reconnecting and rewildling.
I still campaign, talk and write about bees and their decline, but my focus has now shifted. I still want to share my newfound knowledge about bees and other pollinators with anyone and everyone who will listen, but more importantly I want to share my love and awe of these fascinating and delightful beings, together with the insights and understandings they have gifted me. My hope is that in doing this I might inspire others to fall in love, as I have, with the bees who visit their gardens… in which case they will start doing whatever they can to help ensure their continued survival for it is in our nature to want to protect that which we love.
I am delighted that Rachel has invited me to be a guest tutor on her wonderful Rewilding Apprenticeship later this year and cannot wait to share my love, knowledge and insights with you.
As you can tell from her writing Brigit has a great passion and I can’t wait to learn more from her on the day she will spend sharing her knowledge with us on the rewilding apprenticeship.
Brigit has her own blog and can be found on twitter @B_Strawbridge