Foraging Necklace

June 2013

Why do we need to help the bees?

Bees and other pollinating insects are essential to the plant life cycle as they help the flower produce its seed and propagate itself for years to come. They are also essential to the food chain of many animals including people, by being instrumental in producing tasty and nourishing fruits. Finally, bees produce honey which is not only a superfood nutritionally, but also has medicinal properties.
Honeybees have been in difficulty because of neonicotinoid pesticides used in inorganic farming methods, along with extremes of weather, especially long spells of cold winters, heavy rain and a lack of sunshine. These have weakened the hives and large numbers have died.

How can we help to take care of the many species of bees and show them our appreciation? If you were a bee, what would be on your wish list?

Bees are foragers. They move among the plants, snifting and sipping the nectar that lies at the base of each flower head. Generous stands of sweet smelling and tasty wildflowers are a bee’s delight. Bees forage up to about two miles away from their hive but need to find nectar regularly along the way, otherwise they get exhausted. So short distances between stands are best.

Our Plans at Highbury (2013)

This is what we are planning to create at Highbury, working with the Parks Rangers and a starter fund from Birmingham Friends of the Earth. We will sow, plant and tend a series of wildflower stands throughout the park – a kind of necklace for foraging bees. Some stands will be in woodland, some in meadow and others in boggy areas. The first to be planted is Henburys Wood, near the Wall and the children’s play area. We hope lots of people will join in. Highbury Park Friends and the Birmingham BeeKeepers are obvious participants. Schools and community groups are welcome to join us or come on special days out by arrangement. Everyone can do a little, and learn how to make a corner of their own garden suitable for bees too.

During the coming months, there will be a range of events. Some Foraging Necklace days will focus on sowing, planting or seed collection (30th June, 28th July, mid October). Just as there many types of bee with different flower preferences, so there must be many types of flowering plant to provide for them. A diverse planting helps create a stable ecosystem and contributes towards the planet maintaining a steady climate. We have about 30 species to plant in the woodland alone! We will be learning to identify these plants and what they need to grow well.

Other days will include crafts and fun for children, making bumblehotels, and games with a bee theme (28th July, 29th – 31st August 2013) . We want to monitor the newly planted areas to see which plants are doing well, and which need more attention. We will want to find out which species of bee, other pollinators and other wildlife come to visit or settle in. Schools are welcome to join in, learning more about pollinators and plants, or use the project to focus on maths, language or other areas of the curriculum. Please contact us to arrange a visit.

September 28th 2013 is Honey Fun Day. We are hatching a plan for a big jamboree (should that be honey-boree?)  to celebrate wildflowers, bees and honey in one fell swoop! Beekeepers will be on hand to explain all things to do with bees, and Birmingham Orienteering Club will set up a run and mapreading challenge, and a short trail for very young children. Our woodland work will have seedlings to show for our hard work and we will want to identify what has grown. With your help we can add new ideas – perhaps a honeycake bake-off or mead-tasting or a painting competition. By the time September comes around, there should be even more things to do!

We are now confirmed recipients of Community Tree Planting packs from Woodland Trust and will receive our trees in November. We will be looking for volunteers to help plant these  bee-loved trees in the park hedgerows. We will want lots of help from schools and other parts of the local community. News on this to follow soon.

We thank Birmingham Friends of the Earth for their financial and friendly support for this project.

Highbury has been home to beekeeping for over fifty years. Let’s see how many different ways we can celebrate bees and honey! Long may they continue.

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