Cultivating gardens,planting flowers and not using harmful pesticides is one way of ensuring bees survive... pic by F Macha
The earliest memory I have of bees is my mother yelling at me to lie flat on the ground in rural Kilimanjaro. I must have been seven or eight. Swarms of bees would noisily zoom past like tornadoes. At that time I never associated bees and the sweet stuff they naturally produce.
The notion that bees are vicious insects that bite was as common to us villagers as were stray dogs and wild animals.
Ten years later (now a teenager) I was writing stories and poems and one was about the fierceness of bees. I was, by then, aware that bees made honey and that honey was good for you. However, the idea that they were dangerous could maim even kill, dominated social values.
The poem I wrote remained with me for decades. I performed it regularly with a drum (pictured, live in Germany, 1987) and even recorded it while living in Latin America.
Translated from Swahili the words are roughly along the following lines:
“Don’t get close; beware!
Get out of the way! Beware!
Watch the flock carrying her majesty the queen
Get out of the way; beware!”
On and on the lyrics roved to a crescendo, each line a torch of terror, a thud of fright, to punching climax. I continued performing the “Nyuki” poem until around ten years ago when my understanding of the significance and deterioration of bees globally, changed drastically.
They are not fierce insects who bite and terrorize humans but vital quintessential “soul engineers” of the food chain. Without bees we are finished. Of course in biology I had (like all you reading this) learnt about pollination. Still in my awareness, bees were like many other pollinating creatures (e.g. butterflies, birds and moths) - just a part of the vegetation.
While working as a reporter for Uhuru newspapers in mid 1970s I covered rural farms whereby nests were destroyed through fires and smoke to get honey. The fact that it was wrong to wipe out their hives never rang bells in my consciousness. I thought they deserved a harsh treatment. After all, like stray dogs they were scary.
Let us analyze a few facts and realities…
Fact one. Lately the over use of antibiotics has meant that some serious diseases are becoming immune. Three months ago, Professor Dame Sally Davies England’s Chief Medical Officer warned that there is a “catastrophic threat” from ailments resistant to anti-biotics. No anti-biotics have been discovered since 1987 because big pharmaceutical companies are not investing in research anymore because there is no money to be made. Global action has to be taken just like with terrorism or the lethal flu epidemic.
Bees are exceptionally significant : Anti-bacterial Manuca Honey gel is very good for bruises nd serious wounds
Professor Davies said this is an “international threat” (like terrorism) and in past five years various fatal diseases such as the blood poisoning E -Coli bug have gone up by 60 percent.
Around the same time it was reported that Manuka honey from New Zealand- used for centuries by Maori tribes- has anti-septic properties that can combat 80 types of bacteria. Manuka is one of the most expensive honeys in the world costing an average 10 pounds (approx 25,000 shillings) for a small 250 milligrams bottle.
According to the US department of Agriculture, bees help fertilize 80 percent of our vegetation; and this 80 percent is a third of what we eat.
The situation is serious. World wide campaigns are mushrooming everywhere with slogans and chants: Help Save Our bees! Without bees life would not be the same! etc.
Side by side with these campaigns are sites to help donate for the up keep of honey bees.
Such recent campaigns by bee keepers and environmentalists prove that we must support bees. The insects are being wiped out in millions because of global warming, use of pesticides, expanding cities and urban life.
Bee supporters have given out specific things that you and I can do to ensure the support of our so called “fierce” friends (including butterflies, moths etc).
Start gardens and help grow wild and colourful flowers from your local area. They are magnets and a source of food and life for bees. If you can, try to rear bees and keep their hives safe. Whereas in the old days honey collecting meant demolishing bee hives, today we have to ensure their prosperity. It is like when we rear chicken for their eggs. We don’t want to get rid of their nests. If there are three eggs you take two and leave one, therefore, ensuring the continuation of your food source. Which is fair. Our survival depends on living peacefully with nature and natural creatures.
Also published in Citizen Tanzania