Friday, May 15, 2015

On bee-coming a citizen

One of my favorite authors, the late Gene Hill, once wrote a wonderful explanation of why there are ticks, the arachnid type. It can be found in the story Jennifer Asks "Why?" starting on page 138 of A Hunter's Fireside Book, at least that's where it is in my edition. In abbreviated form his rationale goes like this:
"...we have wives that shriek at us so we'll get out of the house to go outside and hunt. And we hunt because we need an excuse to own a houseful of dogs. And we need a houseful of dogs to support the ticks. The outcome of this magnificent logic is that we have ticks, so we are forced to get married."
bee on yellow flower
bee on yellow flower
Photo by J. Harrington

It's not clear to me whether Mr. Hill taught logic to politicians or learned it from them. In either case, his story, and its logic, nicely introduces a follow up to yesterday's news about Minnesota's backsliding from a potential leadership role in protecting bees and other pollinators. According to Josephine Marcotty, writing for the Star Tribune, "the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association successfully pushed back with a provision, added to the House agriculture bill, that will allow nurseries to use the label [“pollinator friendly”] on plants as long as they are not toxic enough to kill an adult honeybee outright."

My initial reaction was to try to organize a boycott of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association members. Then I remembered Yoda's "Do or not do. There is no try." I also realized that, as evidenced all too frequently, what the legislature giveth, the legislature can taketh away. So, instead of going negative and "trying" to get folks to boycott the MNLA, I went into the internets and collected information to help support those who are going to do the right thing by bees and other pollinators, if we can. First though let me, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that I don't give a damn about ticks or bees. What I care a lot about are dogs, daughters, flowers and food. In fact, against my better judgement, I sometimes care about the future of the human race. That's how I end up wondering about ticks and worrying about bees and butterflies.

butterfly on flower
butterfly on flower
Photo by J. Harrington

Now, first of all, don't buy plants, especially flowering plants, from "big box" stores. Here's why.

Thanks to the HoneyBee Club of Stillwater, you can find local sources in the list of "Growers who do not use neonicotinoids on their plants," along with other useful information about how to help bees. (Several of the sources they list are also listed as members of the MNLA so you might want to have a brief, friendly, conversation about MNLA's "bee friendliness" if you buy from them.)

There's also a listing of retailers selling plants with little or no neonicotinoids available at the Friends of the Earth web site. Bachman's and Gerten's are the only 2 Minnesota-specific sellers listed.

bee on pansy
bee on pansy
Photo by J. Harrington

It seems to me that, if we want to live in the kind of world that has fruit and flowers and happy children, and want to be able to leave such a world for our offspring, we need to pay a lot more attention to what we buy, where we buy it, who we vote for, and what they vote for. It's time for Minnesotans to forgo being only consumers and return to being citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. If enough of us work together, we can make government, which is more and more responsive to big business and big boxes, less relevant since it's become less reliable.

Bees and Morning Glories

By John Ciardi 

Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,   
fade from the heat of the day, but already   
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg   
hooks have found and are boarding them.

This could do for the sack of the imaginary   
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they   
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.

I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except   
when the hive is threatened. They know   
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled   
before the whole feast wisps off.

They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy   
with gold and sunlight. The line of them,   
like thin smoke, wafts over the hedge.

And back again to find the fleet gone.   
Well, they got this day’s good of it. Off   
they cruise to what stays open longer.   
Nothing green gives honey. And by now

you’d have to look twice to see more than green   
where all those white sails trembled   
when the world was misty and open   
and the prize was there to be taken.



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