Greetings my bee friends! Spring is fast approaching and with it, the lovely reappearance of the bees, birds, bugs and butterflies—-our trusty pollinator friends!
There is a wonderful seminar coming up for you backyard enthusiasts or wannabees. It is offered by the Xerces Society. Please sign up to learn more about how we can support the precious treasures of our pollinators.
Best Practices for Pollinators 2022 VirtualBest Practices for Pollinators Sixth Annual Summit
Did you know that we have over 1000 wild bees indigenous to the southwest. Most people are not aware that there are multitudes of magical looking ground nesting bees— 3 x as efficient in pollinating as honeybees. They are adapted and co-evolved to the plants of the southwest and often so under the radar that we miss their silent but critical presence around us.
Sadly we disturb and develop the ground that they need to do their nesting. We cover soil with unbreathable weed barrier, dump rocks on it, RoundUp or other pesticides to kill “weeds” or make the mulch so thick, the bees cannot readily build their nests underground and have a simple unencumbered entry. Soil and landscaping that is watered heavily also discourages these little bees.
Here are a few of these little beauties that we want to attract—in order from left to right–osmias, perditas, anthidellums, diadasias, metallic green sweat bees and bumblebees.
I hope you’ll invite the ground nesting native bees by leaving undisturbed habitat in your yards, or by securing a native bee hotel/casita and also attending the aforementioned excellent seminar by the Xerxes society to learn more! Spread the word!
Friends, I have chosen to share in full a wonderful primer for how to support pollinators and all wildlife during the upcoming difficult winter months.
The Farmers Almanac 2021 says we are going to have a very cold Nov/Dec then move into the usual moisture and snowpack (which is becoming more reduced each year) for January and February. Our native bees, all pollinators and wildlife need all the shelter and support we can give to them. They live tenuous lives with a very thin thread connecting them to survival.
Thank you Ani of Valle Del Oro’s Albuquerque Backyard Refuge Program for their wonderful work in the community! They are the newest kid on the block in terms of a Federal wildlife refuge and they are doing marvelous things with schools, neighborhoods and communities, teaching us about how to become as friendly to our wild neighbors as possible.
Fall Gardening Theme: Less is more! by Ani Jamgyal
The over all theme for our fall gardening tips focuses on leaving the wildlife habitat garden wild. It can be tempting to tidy up the garden by cutting down spent flower stalks, raking and disposing of leaves, shearing shrubs into tight geometric shapes and generally buttoning up the garden until spring.
However, this is not the best way to nurture wildlife through their potentially most difficult season. Following are some suggestions for what to do instead, which might also help with winning the neighborhood Halloween contest for best outdoor display and with navigating the additional leisure time that comes with letting the garden grow a little wilder.
Fall blooming flowers and spent flowers spikes provide some of the most beautiful fall landscape scenes. Among the late summer to fall bloomers are sunflowers and amaranth. Penstemons and salvias also produce tall flower stalks in mid- to late summer that, when pollinated, yield seeds for winter fare. Typically, a mix of blooms and dried seed heads are in display along the stalks, feeding pollen and nectar eaters throughout the fall, as well as seed-eaters into winter. The stems also provide food and habitat for small mammals and insects at a time when food is scarce.
An additional benefit to leaving the dried seed heads uncut is that some of the seeds will drop in place and may even germinate in spring, providing the garden with a larger patch of that particular flower species!
A wonderful way to spend the time saved on not pruning your wildlife habitat garden is to walk around the neighborhood looking for flowers still in bloom and setting seed. Take a stroll through the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, paying special attention to tall native bunch grasses such as sacaton and big bluestem, with their regal dried seed heads. Tall dried grasses provide a perfect backdrop for spooky Halloween displays.
Instead of having to buy (likely non-biodegradable) stuff to mimic this effect, let nature create its own striking Halloween display!
Fallen leaves,whenleft on the ground, accomplish a multitude of benefits for wildlife, whereas raking and bagging them (especially in plastic bags) basically does no one any good (including the planet as a whole). Multiple studies have been conducted showing that mulching fallen leaves into the soil feeds the soil critters; feeds the plants growing in the soil; and supports the wildlife dependent on the plants for food and shelter. Leaves can be left where they fall, raked into garden beds or composted in a pile. To speed up their decomposition, put the leaves in a large garbage bin and cut them up with a weed-whip [(1) mulching fall leaves – YouTube ]. Even if you have a patch of lawn, letting the leaves mulch in place helps the lawn ((1) Should you mulch leaves into your lawn or rake them up – YouTube ) and decreases the number of plastic bags that end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch [Great Pacific Garbage Patch | National Geographic Society].
For those fortunate enough to have a cottonwood tree or three, there will be a glorious abundance of leaves on the ground. An excellent fall tradition is to make a pile for the kids to play in or for the dog to enjoy [(1) Stella’s Leaf Pile Classics – YouTube]. The pile can later be used to mulch the nearest garden, protecting the roots from winter temperatures.
Shrubs are better left more or less untended for wildlife to enjoy. In their natural form, they offer more spacious shelter to birds, mammals and lizards scurrying for cover. This also leaves seeds for food on flowering shrubs such as four-wing saltbush and Apache plume. There is some pruning that will need to be done in the winter (stay tuned for the winter newsletter!) but for now, let them be.
Any branches you do need to cut or gather from the ground can be added to a habitat brush pile. Kids love building brush piles. Besides being fun to construct, brush piles harbor insects for food; provide shelter for many small critters; serve as perches for small birds; and are a wonderful structure for vines to cover. Seeds tossed onto the pile stand a very good chance of germinating next spring since a pile offers shelter from the drying sun and wind, as well as from late spring cold snaps.
If you want someone to show up and care about something or someone, ask a nurse. If you want someone who has time and will go the extra mile for a something or someone, ask a retired nurse.
Terry Dettweiler contacted me last year about doing a special project for her University of New Mexico neighborhood to support bees. She noticed that her neighborhood beekeeper no longer brought her the requisite annual jar of honey. When asking the beekeeper about this loss, her friend said she had hung up her beekeeping veil and could no longer keep the beehive alive. She noted a dreary lack of pollinator plants in the neighborhood. Bees need a smorgasbord of habitat all 3 seasons—from March to October. They can fly up to 5 miles to pursue their banquet of nectar and pollen. If it is a food desert, they will not be able to sustain their hives.
Terry, a master gardener, became concerned after this conversation. She loved plants. She loved honey. And so, it made sense that she loved bees!
Soon Terry and her daughter, Eva, embarked on a COVID year project to raise the money from the city and her local neighbors, as “seed money” for her pollinator plant corridors. Terry’s goal was to inspire neighbors with free plants to create oases of pollinator habitat and begin to learn about bees and native plants of the high desert southwest. Eva, who works for the Quivira Coalition, wrote a bang up grant that we pitched to city leaders for funding.
I was stirred to excitement as I remembered our Burque Bee City resolution that we passed in 2016 through the city council. Unanimously, I might add.
One of the defining goals is:
Whereas communities have the opportunity to support bees and other pollinators on both public and private land through reduced and pesticide free zones: working in collaboration with city officials to manage and increase healthy habitat for pollinators—including but not limited to roadsides, medians, open spaces and parks. (CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE, 22nd city council, Burque Bee City Resolution)
The good news is that Terry raised so much money from neighborhood, her City Councilors, Ike Benton and Pat Davis, and Commissioner Adrian Barboa, that she has money leftover for another project in 2022! She was able to work with the Santa Ana Pueblo nursery to purchase plants at wholesale prices!
And so we commenced with the pollinator plant giveaway on September 25 and 26, 2021, shortly after Fall Equinox. Enthusiasm abounded amongst the neighbors. They worked hard as an association to organize, set up and show up the days of the giveaway. Both days dawned with the usual blue skies and Autumnal sunshine bathing the city. People showed up with dogs, partners, families and children, armed with wagons, bags and buckets. They hauled away armloads and boxes of coral penstemon, sages, grasses, chocolate flowers, echinacea, gaillardia, flowering bushes and more… Teachers came eager to bring plants back for their schools and students. 500-700 plants went out the door each day.
The buzz was out! Terry had tables laden with materials for how to water your plants and nurture them til it is well rooted. There were loads of resources for native plants, xeric landscapes, and backyard wildlife refuges. Think Like a Bee was there to answer any questions alongside master naturalists and gardeners.
Commissioner Barboa came and joined in the celebratory atmosphere, excited about how this project met so many of her own urban agriculture goals—connecting neighbors, populating our landscape with native plants, feeding bees, connecting Indigenous communities.
You can also have your own neighborhood pollinator plant beautification and habitat project! We can help you do it. Terry now has a template for how it’s done and she’s willing to share.
Neighborhoods, let’s feed the bees in 2022! Remember. People love free stuff.
“Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual”(Beethoven)
The intersectionality of these three practices—bee tending, yoga and music—have kept me for a lifetime. All of them contemplative, bringing me fully in the present when I am engaged in any of these. They are the place where I tend my soul.
Imagine being able to combine all three into one experience! I am deeply grateful to award winning celloist and composer, Keely Mackey, and Marisol Brito, owner of Bhava Yoga in Albuquerque, for the eclipse of these practices in three consecutive Sunday fundraisers for Think Like a Bee. Next ones coming up, August 1, 9:30am and August 8, 9:30 am at Bhava Yoga Studio.
This makes my heart joyful!
Our first one was last weekend. It was a restorative, healing and transcendent experience as Marisol led us in yoga postures and Keely played her cello.
Both Keely and Marisol know how crucial bees are for our food system and planetary health. Keely makes amazing macro photos of bees which startle one into seeing these small invertebrates with new eyes!
I invite you to come down to Bhava Yoga in August for a unique experience of restorative yoga paired with glorious cello music. It is also a wonderful way to support Think Like a Bee through this amazing and generous collaboration! Like the honeybee hive, endlessly generous and always working for the common good—a mighty all-female colony of giftedness.
The entry fee is $20 with the option to donate above and beyond. Register here. Even if you cannot come you can still donate on this page. Bring a friend or two and support the bees while nourishing your body/mind and soul.
Spoiler alert…the highest donor over the three Sundays will receive a free jar of wildflower honey from my girls in the backyard hive.
Oh, and by the way, I have my first summer harvest of delicious alfalfa or wildflower honey available! Message me for pick up at firstname.lastname@example.org or text 505 514 4982. $16/pint and $30/quart.
It’s been a week, bee friends. In the merry month of May, I left for two weeks to visit my parents in Ohio, secretly gloating. I had split two hives before I left and since my splits took the old queen with me, the girls left behind needed to make new queens. One hive made a few modest queen cells. The other gorged their hive with the long peanut looking shapes that housed new virgin queens in the making. I was satisfied that they were well on their way…
I smiled smugly to myself. I would go away and in their secret, mysterious chambers, the worker girls would get their new queens reared. The virgin queen would go off to be mated with the drone congregation—back in a flash to begin her new household chores of laying up to 2,000 eggs a day! I was certain I would find the glorious new royal court in good working order when I returned—laying abundantly for the survival of the hive.
Never. Think. You. Know. More. Than. The Bees.
I came back to hive #1 in my backyard—not only devoid of a queen, but full of the dreaded “Laying workers”. It so. happens that when the vulnerable and venerable little virgin queen(s) goes out on her maiden flight and never returns—be it due to rain, hail, being eaten by a bird or all manner of disasters— the worker girls go into high gear survival mode, begin to mature their own ovaries and lay unfertilized eggs. The hive will die eventually without a fertilized queen. It’s the fertilized diploid eggs that have the worker bees in them.
The honeybee’s evolutionary strategy for survival gives rise to multiple pseudo queens in the absence of a mated queen. Their virgin queen has not returned and they have no fertilized eggs to begin growing a real queen. What would you do? Denial does work well in these cases. The workers ovaries mature, unsuppressed by the queen’s pheromones, causing them to lay their messy unfertilized eggs everywhere. Alas, their abdomens are too short and they can’t “place” the egg in the cell. The scattershot eggs in the cells from laying workers(see photos below) decay and die, like a multi-car pile up on I-40.
The nightmare begins. All the other field worker bees—hey-ho, hey-ho it’s off to work we go— are lulled into believing that someone is keeping house and preparing for the future on the home front. Though life is uneasy and chaotic in the hive without a single queen, the workers “go with it” and bank on this denial. Deposing the multiple laying workers would be one step closer to the very unpleasant reality that they really are queen less and will die. The hive has no other choice. Some unfertilized haploid eggs —otherwise known as drones in the bee world—will make it and the hive will fill up with boys . They are notorious for lazing around the hive, never lifting a wing to help, with their strong suit—their only suitit appears—as mating.
To complicate matters, the laying workers with their developing ovaries exhibit raging PMS. They become territorial wenches. They will kill any well fertilized queen that the beekeeper tries to introduce. The best a beekeeper can hope for, is to introduce open brood from queen-right hives—with a very strong pheromone scent from another queen. The hope is that this will eventually shrivel the laying worker’s cohones. One day, they just go belly up after their life cycle of 30-45 days has ended.
ABOVE: Laying workers scattershot eggs
I was humbled. Even humiliated. How could I have been so complacent? Leaving my hives for two weeks to their own demise? Another year in a beekeepers life. It was going to be a doozy of a long season.
After determining the grim truth of my backyard Hive #1, I went down to check Hives #2 and #3 in the deep south valley. These were not the ones rockin’ out from the blackberry blossoms on Lorenzo’s organic farm. No, these girls live next to a herd of lactating mama cows and their babies. The dust from their hundreds of thunderous hooves coat the hives regularly—scenting the honeycombs a la dairy barn. When I opened up Hive #2, a strong queen right hive, ants exploded from the bars like sewer rats exposed to the light. I was horrified. They had laid mounds of white eggs between the bars. As I began to pull the bars up to see the extent of the insurrection, the eggs and the hapless ants fell through the air and landed on the bottom of the hive. But true to their collaborative nature, as I cleaned up this natural disaster for the bees, I noticed them beginning, bit by bit, to cart away the ant eggs and dispose of them out the front door. It was as though they noticed my effort and decided to participate in my FEMA rescue.
Hive #3 next door was clearly in trouble. They were either queenless with laying workers OR had a very poorly mated queen— which an expert bee friend had alerted me to the possibility. The brood pattern was spotty with pop up brood—sloppy in design, with many unsealed cells. The worker girls were despondent and dwindling. I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what was wrong. Were they sick? Parasitic mite disease? Nosema? Did they have laying workers? I toyed with the idea of letting them just die out. I was exhausted from hitting the ground running after my trip. In my stress I was binge eating Swiss cheese and hitting the honeymead— hard. I didn’t need another problem in my life. And this was not going to be a one off.
I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but every beekeeper worth their salt will tell you that re-queening a laying worker hive or even a hive with a poorly mated queen, is not for the faint of heart. It is dicey at best. And I had TWO hives that needed requeening.
Because the worker girls in Hives #1 and #3 were treacherously loyal to their substandard queen or laying workers, I would need to work with their very strong pheromone instincts to beat them at their own game. Introducing a foreign queen from outside the hive would be seen as an intruder, most certainly assassinated upon smell. Unless…I put the new queen into the hives with very strong pheromone scented open brood, robbed from another one of my strong hives.
So I set about my work, saying a blessing and asking the girls to please PLEASE cooperate for a new queen! I didn’t want to “waste” the gift of these fresh eggs from my other hard working girls in the Blackberry beeyard.
In the midst of this high drama, a cheerful smiling woman named Rachel jumped the gate and came to watch me doing my swapping of open comb. Rachel was eager to talk with me as I shook the bees off all the disastrous half baked comb from the wretched Hive #3. Poor timing. I was having a hard time keeping my bee helmet from falling down over my eyes. Sweat poured down inside my bee suit as I shook and pulled comb right and left amidst the smoke and a cloud of angry, bewildered bees. Rachel sweetly said, “I’m so glad to finally meet you, how long have you been the beekeeper? I’ve been hoping to meet you! One of these days I will have a hive in my yard up the street! Call me if you need help. I’d love to learn!”
I tried not to fume and fuss out loud. I could feel my annoyance rise. I yanked my hand back hard and yelped as a well placed sting seared my third finger. I wanted to tell her that these days, beekeeping is no longer a picnic. Could I warn her off while there was still time? Tell her about endless days of 90+ degree temps inside a bee suit sauna, lifting up to 50 lbs of equipment? And what about the honey harvesting disasters? Those hot summer days with the honeycomb as soft as butter, melting off the bars and drowning my precious bees as I desperately try to scoop and winch out the oozing comb. Should I tell her about the hours and hours of crushing and processing honey…the sticky, sweet endless summer days with my sweat and honey co-mingling all over my kitchen counters and floor. Or what about the COVID scourge of the bee world—varroa mite and parasitic mite disease? And then there were all the diseases, and laying workers, unmated queens and africanized workers that assail beekeeping today. Would she like to know about 44-50% losses annually? I felt like Scrooge.
But how could I take away her eager innocence? I remembered falling in love with the bees over a decade ago. How quickly I could forget.
Eventually Rachel left. I was heartened by an odd little event as I was closing up Hive # 3 (photo above). I had packed up my equipment and taken everything to the car. After an hour of ripping out bar after bar of dismal comb and brood and replacing it with beautiful fresh brood from another beeyard, I took one final sit by the door of my girls, enjoying their buzzing and a sense of accomplishment and unity.
I suddenly noticed that, lo and behold, the workers had dragged out a body that had clearly been stung in her abdomen—the guts of the brave bee who did the deed, trailed out behind the deceased. This pseudo queen’s head had been severed. The workers stopped to examine her as they entered and left the hive. My eyes popped open. I had seen this once before. When a hive needs a new queen, they will kill the old one and leave her crushed head at the entrance—her pheromone center severed so all know “the queen is dead”.
The hive had just shown me they were ready to collaborate for their survival.
This worker bee colony had had enough. They had been in bondage to a severely inept queen. Without a new monarch in the oven(so to speak), they could only carry on like good soldiers, doing their myriad daily work detail. By collaborating with them, I had broken the spell. The honeybee democracy had spoken. They were done with the chaotic, distressingly sub-par, destructive lack of order and this incapable queen. With astonishingly swift action, they had swapped out their ailing bee democracy with hope for an orderly, humming queen- right future. In one fell swoop the hive chose to remove her. The fresh brood I had inserted, and subsequently the queen I would install next week, would lead to a future after all.
Somewhere in the back of my mind was a memory of the 2020 election cycle and our own close call in the democracy of this country. Though the girls had draconian ways of replacing their ill equipped queens, which are not recommended for a democracy (!), they had chosen together how to proceed to a sustainable future.
I hoped the girls of my laying worker Hive #1, which I had yet to address, would also finally secede their self destructive behavior and allow me to requeen them for their best interests.
Recently I was hiking up Sandia peak in the snow. I began to notice hundreds of ladybugs crawling across the snow. Most of them frozen or buried as the snow shifted. What on earth? I began to pick them and as they revived from the heat of my hand, they crawled across my hand, traveled up my arm, alighted on my face and eventually flew off.
As I said in a ladybug post last year, Sleeping with Ladybugs, I cannot claim to have much expertise on ladybugs, though I have become fascinated by them. They keep showing up in my life! What do they have to teach me?
The fore mentioned blog I published last year about ladybugs taught me about something called diapause every winter. As the temps drop they become dormant together en masse.
And now, as Spring warming comes early, then drops back to freezing temps, they also come out of diapause together. Many will perish. Some will survive .
We are in a climate crisis and these days the unpredictable weather patterns are even more extreme. What will the creatures do? How many will perish as Mother Nature becomes too mercurial for them to survive the ever tenuous thread that keeps them attached to an increasingly harsh planet?
We are in a time of COVID. We are in a time of global warming. We are in a time of deep racial unrest as injustice is being unveiled. Here in the southwest, we are in a long decades old drought of biblical proportions. As I drove south from Santa Fe, NM yesterday, the land looked pinched and stricken by its lack of water. Great whirlwinds of dust flew as the wind kicked up. The distant cattle slogged along in the grit, stones prying at their feet. Succulent plants a pipe dream of the past. We are fighting to protect our sacred water.
One of our fiercest allies in water protection has died recently from brain cancer. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard of the Lakota tribe at Standing Rock. I met her once, in the Fall of 2016, when I was staying at the camp along the river on her property. They called it Sacred Stone Camp. It overlooked the vast windswept plain where buffalo roamed and the eagle rose on the heat thermals. We could see the larger camp at Standing Rock, across from the hill at Sacred Stone. One day LaDonna came down to visit. She was gracious and warm as she greeted the visitors on her land. Intelligent and powerful were her words.
Watch this interview where she introduces herself and speaks her heart.
Another heart teacher is Joanna Macy. She speaks to these times. She speaks from a Buddhist perspective, but it is no different for any religious tradition— including the teachings of Jesus, which I embrace. She says now COVID is a our teacher. It is bringing us deep pain and suffering as a human species. It is unveiling, revealing what delusions or illusions we have lived under for too long. Our lifestyle is killing us and the planet. It is also calling us to our deepest humanity.
Macy teaches about the web that reconnects even in the wretchedness. She calls us to deepest humanity. How we care for one another. We are all interconnected, earth and humans. Our future fate is woven together.
We have seen a huge influx of women and girls into the public sphere in the past decade, rising up to call the human community to action on behalf of our Mother Earth, which absolutely sustains us in all ways. I’m not surprised. Women are the life bearers on this planet. They have the potential to grow and sustain children in utero and then in community. At our best, the female species understands the need to care for that which gives us life.
Perhaps that is why the bees have called me into their world at this time of my life. Though I have no children and have now passed menopause, the thriving and fertility of this female dominated society of honeybees continues to teach me how to “think like a bee” for all earth’s thriving!
Not unlike the ladybug, the invertebrate world of bees in of myth and culture have been associated with resurrection and metamorphosis.
Many spiritual teachers see this time of disruption, pandemic, and institutional failure as the beginning of a new epoch, an initiation for humanity for what must be birthed. The transformation of the cocoon. Animal Speak reminded me that the symbolic message from this most ancient creature, the beetle, might be my metamorphosis, as well as ours. Here’s the insect wisdom of beetle:
Stick together. Rest when you can. Prepare for change. Remember you are in the midst of a metamorphosis. What do you need to shed in order to welcome the new? Change is inevitable and only becomes more difficult when you resist its natural flow.
TED ANDREWS (ANIMAL SPEAK, LLEWELLYN PUBLICATIONS, ST. PAUL, MN, 1996)
Dear bee friends, SB103 on restricting the class of insecticides called neonicotinoids died on the New Mexico Senate floor last week. We are extremely grateful for all of you who made calls, wrote letters and otherwise hounded your senators to make it this far. There were senator absences at the final vote and the odd bedfellows who voted for this in committee, yet ended up killing the bill on the floor.
Everyone working on this legislation learned alot and will continue to find ways to restrict neonics and all toxic chemicals in New Mexico agriculture and our backyards. We are deeply grateful to our champion, Senator Mimi Stewart, for her broad vision of a sustainable future and the struggle to keep our air, water and soil healthy—and thus our pollinators and food systems.
In working on this bill during a COVID time, I have become much more aware of the word “frontline” or essential workers. Wild and managed bees, as the workhorses of the pollinator world, are exactly that. It was a lightbulb going off in my head when I put two and two together, realizing finally, that if frontline, bee-essential workers aren’t protected, the food web of life will fail. We will all be malnourished, sick or worse…
Our food system will be dismembered bit by bit if we are not vigilant about protecting bees.
The terms “essential worker” and “frontline worker” have taken on tremendous new meaning since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This article proposes that other species are essential workers whose labor is absolutely necessary for the future of critical infrastructure — both human and planetary. Their work underpins all food systems, regional and global water security, transportation, housing, health, and the climate and metabolism of our planet.
Many species are also frontline workers: facing huge risks while going about their daily labors. They are harmed and killed, intentionally and unintentionally, with antibiotics, pesticides, tillage, harvesting machinery, logging, construction, and more, without thought for how their work — and the systems that depend on their work — will proceed without them.
All species are continual designers, capable of new strategies — often in rapid response to a challenge. Like the humans who design, build, and repair our roads, bridges, and electrical grids, the work of other species involves coordinated efforts and constant intelligent decision making. They are also investors in local and global economies — and they will require a return on investment (ROI) in order to stay in the game, payable in a currency that they can use.
The work and economies of other species “enfolds” our own — it is not separate, nor is it merely a part of it. To enfold means “to surround or envelop” or “to hold someone lovingly” and it implies nestedness.
The word economics originally carried much of the same sense of care and nestedness: oikos (home) and nomi (care) = “the care of home.” Aristotle defined it as “the pragmatic science of living virtuously as a member of the polis (or community) through wise household management.”
I love this idea of all species being part of what we think of as a solely human economy. Pershouse’s dissection of a true economy as that of oikos (Greek for household/home) combined with nomi or care, blends the spiritual and the practical in a beautiful way—an economy as caring for our home.
Pershouse goes on to entail how non-human species are engineers, architects, medicine and transport systems, providing natural sewer systems, and biological webs that vacuum, respirate, metabolize, pollinate, cool, heat, recycle, birth and evolve a planet that gives us food every single day.
In other words, every species on earth gives human life the local and sustainable food economy we depend upon. It gives us a planet that allows us to live, breathe and continue our daily lives.
How would our economic system be forced to change if we truly believed this and acted in ways that cared and protected all non-human species as critical infrastructure for our economy to work?
Gratitude is the only proper response.
And gratitude requires reciprocity and caring for that which is so graciously given to us.
Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.” – Alfred Painter
Early this morning our smallest, snuggly cat, a very stealth killing machine, escaped the house without her Birdbessafe collar. The cats look ridiculously cute in them. Kind of like little court jesters or cats of a royal household. But they hate them. It interferes with their work.
Not surprisingly, within a half hour she came back with a black headed junco. My blood boiled. I had no one to be angry at but myself. Birdsbesafe collars have evidently been shown to reduce cat/bird interactions and fatalities up to 80%. Who am I kidding? It’s the cat’s instinct. So I strap on their collars and set them free for at least 1/2 – 3 hours each day. Like humans, all creatures need fresh air, a place and time to be cat-like, sniffing, leaping and unencumbered by humans.
My cat has shown she is meticulous in cleaning the bones and eating every part of her prey except the feathers. She does her work with precision and she knows what she needs. A cat with poor kidney function sometimes needs wild caught food. She does not waste her prey when she has a chance—–which is usually only once in a blue moon. She does not catch and release. She uses that wild wisdom to strengthen her body.
What does this have to do with bees, you might ask?
Bees also do not waste anything. They are essential workers. Front line workers that pollinate the food and flowers we love so much. You will see them out and about, gathering and collecting pollen, nectar and sap for propolizing. They use everything from our backyard gardens and green spaces, turning it into gold. Like little alchemists, they use our environment for making food, medicine and guerrilla style glue with their propolis from sap.
That is why it is so important to safeguard them as they come out of their long (or short) winter dormancy, usually weakened and vulnerable. Here’s what I recently posted on my Next Door Neighborhood website:
Pre-Emergement herbicides. You’ll notice this time of year a sickly yellow-green cover on many rock surfaces, sidewalks or just sprayed on plain dirt. As someone who is working on pesticide issues at the legislature and with the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, I encourage you to read up on alternatives. Domestic and wild animals, birds and human shoes will track this around the neighborhood, into your home, workplace, etc. Cats will lick their paws and ingest it. Here’s an article for alternatives: https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/alternatives/factsheets/Least%20toxic%20control%20of%20weeds.pdf A simple list is to check off first if you wish to suppress weeds is: mechanical( e.g. pull the weeds, burn them, suppress with plastic, boiling water), biological (goats/geese!), least toxic application(gardeners vinegar, corn gluten meal). Glyphosates, which are in post emergent herbicides like RoundUp, degrade the soil, destroy microbes, get into the ecological chain and become low grade and perennially toxic cumulatively—for human and all living creatures.
Bees as essential workers might be a new concept. It shouldn’t be. They’ve been front line, trench workers since time immemorial. They are the donkeys of the food system, i.e. the workhorses, downtrodden, mistreated, misunderstood. During COVID 19, we’ve very clearly seen the disparity between how we care for and pay front line workers vs. Wall Street moguls and CEO’s. Should we be surprised? Money speaks.
However, the only truly valuable things usually have nothing to do with money—though I’m not against money when it’s justly doled out so all can live well. My belief is that if we put our money towards preserving clean air, water, food, good health and a respected planet, then we would understand this is where our real wealth and economy lies. We don’t protect or even remotely safeguard the raw ingredients of the environment in our ag sector that bees use to turn straw into gold (think, the child’s fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin). We do have control of choices in our backyards and households. Yet, we’ve all been sold a lie by the chemical companies. That the only way to “control” our environment is to stamp out and kill everything that doesn’t “serve us”. We are awash with chemicals. Meanwhile, multi-nationals chemical corporations are making a killing from our pocketbooks, while we slowly poison ourselves.
We have become a society that “cuts off our nose to spite our face”. The bug apocalypse is one vision of this wrong headed thinking. Humanity seems to lack the precautionary principle to do no harm, particularly in the agricultural sector. We are facing the collapse of our ecosystems because we have poisoned the “least among us”, thinking they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Turns out bugs are the basic building blocks of our ecosystem, food for many mammals. Mother Earth has her own checks and balances of beneficial insects, birds and bats that prey on the non-beneficials. Might be good to provide habitat for these guys to re-balance our ecosystem without harming the whole web of life. Perhaps what we need is more re-wilding (thanks to my friend Todd for this word) of our habits, tendencies, thoughts.
So, this is why we do what we can…calling legislative committees, hounding politicians, planting trees, tending flowers, supporting pollinators, growing food and roses, teaching children about their earth mama.
Listen to the amazing poem by Amanda Gormanbelow, then call your New Mexico Senate Rules committee members and ask for them to immediately set up a hearing for the New Mexico Green Amendment SJR3. This will give nature rights and move us towards a future of ensuring pure water, clean air, stable climate and healthy soil for all living beings.
Hi Friends, I wanted to update those of you who are willing to support a few bills that will protect pollinators, along with their habitat—our soil, air and water. A good rule of thumb…what’s good for the bees is good for the humans!
SB 103 Restricting Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides with Senator Mimi Stewart
This is coming to the Senate Conservation Committee, Tuesday, February 2, 2021. Time TBA.
We are particularly concerned about the votes of Sen. Schmedes, Sen. Soules and Sen. Cervantes on the Senate Conservation Committee.
Call and ask them to vote YES, whether or not you are a constituent.
***Relating to the environment; restricting the use of neonicotinoid class pesticides; providing exceptions; requiring an education and training program; amending and enacting sections of the pesticide control act.”
****Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees, and even low levels can have subtle yet severe impacts such as making them more susceptible to disease, delaying development, impairing their ability to collect food and limiting reproduction. Bee kills in the European Union have led them to ban this class of pesticides.
****Neonicotinoids put bees in direct risk of exposure as they contaminate the pollen and nectar of bee attractive plants.
Make sure the Senators know how deeply you care about this issue for pollinators, a healthy and non-toxic food system and our own health!!!!
ALSONOTE TODAY, JANUARY 28, 2021 on the SENATE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE. CALL MEMBERS TO SUPPORT! Ensuring a healthy environment, ensures healthy pollinators!
SJR3 Environmental Rights, CA (Green Amendment)–Sens. Sedillo Lopez, Soules, Stewart and Ferrary
This Resolution will ask voters to create a NM State constitutional amendment giving all New Mexicans a constitutional right to clean air, water, and land. These rights would become inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible, and among those rights reserved to all the people and on par with other protected inalienable rights. Currently the legislative body is to protect these elements.
If you care about the devastating contamination of our fresh water in a drought ridden state, due to fracking, please note this bill as well. This affects all creatures habitat and certainly native or honeybees, foraging anywhere near the fracking fields.
This bill would protect water in oil and gas industry. Would require more use of fracked water, prohibit millions of gallons of freshwater for fracking.
*For every barrel of oil produced, the oil and gas industry consumes an average of 3 barrels of freshwater, and produces 4-7 times as much toxic fracking waste known as “produced water.” *Currently, produced water is poisoning our land, water, and air with little regulation or oversight. Despite being hazardous, toxic, and radioactive, produced water is not managed as the hazardous waste it is, and the 2019 Produced Water Act fails to provide New Mexicans necessary protections from this wastestream.
*Negligent spills occur daily and continue to increase. Thousands of massive ponds and corroded steel tanks store the toxic fracking waste. Corrosion, human error, overflow, and equipment failure are the most common reasons for spills. The Produced Water Act must be amended to fulfill the legislature’s intent of protecting public health, the environment, and freshwater.
Amend the Produced Water Act to Protect New Mexicans
Proposed amendments to the 2019 Produced Water Act ensure the safe handling and disposal of this toxic waste, to protect public health, and to preserve scarce freshwater by:
****Require the Oil Conservation Division to regulate the safe management and disposal of oil and gas waste.
****Require oil and gas operators to use produced water instead of freshwater for fracking.
****Provide penalties for spills, using fines to develop shared public information and data.
****Require the New Mexico Environment Department to regulate pollution from produced water
FINALLY, Recently Think Like A Bee was featured in a podcast with Sophia Rose, a Meals VISTA volunteer through AmeriCorps. She works with the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network and does amazing podcasts about food, hunger, pollinators and our earth habitat. It includes themes of:
**Bees as essential workers
**Honeybee’s sophisticated social system and what they can teach us as humans
**Bees throughout history in our cosmologies and theologies
**Bees as critical in our food system and how we re-think our farms and rural place.
In other words, how to think like a bee!
Here’s the Link and Deep Gratitude for your support of pollinators!